Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in Hiawatha, Iowa, on Tuesday. (Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)

A smart reader points out that Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) hasn’t really flip-flopped on foreign aid to Israel — he’s always been against it and all other foreign aid. The best indication of this is Rand Paul’s FY 2012 budget proposal. He states flat out: “While this budget proposal does eliminate foreign aid to Israel, it is not meant to hurt, negate, or single out one of America’s most important allies. This proposal eliminates all foreign aid to all countries. Israel’s ability to conduct foreign policy, regain economic dominance, and support itself without the heavy hand of U.S. interests and policies, will only strengthen the Israeli community.” That’s what Paul wanted to do in his ideal world in 2012. He insists he hasn’t changed his mind, so we assume that is what he would do now if he could. It is not a position shared by any other sitting senator. It is ludicrously naive to believe Israel — as we’ve seen just this year — would be stronger with no aid. Remember, this was not a long-term aspiration for Paul but an immediate cessation of aid. He incorrectly says his position is in sync with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This is false. This is not a Reaganite position. Not only did President Reagan maintain healthy aid for Israel but he also “launched the National Endowment for Democracy in 1983 to help ‘foster the infrastructure of democracy — the system of a free press, unions, political parties, universities’ around the globe, as he put it in a speech before the British Parliament.” Reagan understood that aid is one of many tools that helps the United States to influence other countries and to express our values. Paul notes he voted for additional Iron Dome funding recently. Is that a recognition his original scheme was unworkable? Or is this a momentary deviation from his long-held views that all foreign aid should be eliminated? His longtime staffer Doug Stafford has not responded to my request for clarification. Paul this year also opposed the Menendez-Kirk Iran sanctions bill, a position the White House and Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) held. The failure to pass sanctions has been widely criticized by senators of both parties, pro-Israel groups and bipartisan experts. In the case of Israel, the problem is that Paul’s ingrained isolationist instincts clash with his professed support for Israel. He wants to have it both ways; he can’t divorce himself from his libertarian roots and simultaneously support positions that are necessary for Israel’s security. Trying to do so leads to the sort of problems he has experienced lately when he is accused of flip-flopping. Republicans are overwhelmingly pro-Israel and have had it with a president whose instincts lead him to open breaches with the Jewish state. They know that saying you are “pro-Israel” is irrelevant; it’s what you do that matters. That’s a problem for Rand Paul that will not go away.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.