The key to Rand Paul’s tenure as a Senator and to his latent 2016 presidential campaign has been to maintain the libertarian base that helped propel his father’s presidential bids while remaining somewhat within the mainstream Republican Party. That can be a difficult line to walk and Paul has done it reasonably successfully so far.
Some dislike the strategy for its lack of purity. Personally, I’m fine with a little politicking in the name of small steps in the right direction. But how much placating of GOP tenets is too much?
Rand Paul is set today to introduce an extreme piece of pro-Israel legislation that essentially applaud’s Israel for backing out of peace talks and condemns the Palestinians for seeking political reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.
The Washington Post:
In a gesture that is sure to win applause from supporters of Israel within the Republican electorate, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Monday will introduce a bill that would stop U.S. aid to the newly formed unity government in Palestine unless certain demands were promptly met, including a cease-fire and a public declaration of Israel’s right to exist.
The move by Paul, a potential 2016 presidential contender, is his latest effort to reassure skittish Republicans that he is a firm supporter of Israel. Last year, he visited with Jewish leaders in Jerusalem and prayed at the Wailing Wall, and he has touted his two votes for sanctions against Iran as evidence that he considers Israel a key ally.
“Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with an entity that does not believe it should exist, and has used terrorist tactics to seek its end,” Paul said in a statement obtained by The Washington Post.
His bill would give Palestinian leaders five weeks, upon the government’s formation, to renounce violence and recognize Israel, something he calls “vital” for encouraging peace talks.
Clearly, this is a 2016 campaign schtick meant to throw red meat at the pro-Israel right-wing. And, granted, the legislation appears more symbolic than anything else (the statement piggybacks off what has already occurred without introducing anything new and there does not appear to be any binding consequences for the Palestinians if they fail to meet Rand’s ultimatum).
But it also emulates one of the worst characteristics of GOP doctrine: the extreme, reflexively pro-Israel disposition that has solidified the intractable nature of the conflict for decades and has kept the Palestinians under brutal occupation without rights or recourse.
More than that, it completely contradicts what has actually happened over the past couple weeks. In the past few days, the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation is what has garnered the most media coverage. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used this fact to propagandize his version of events, going on American cable news and saying the reconciliation is what caused the collapse of the negotiations. This is false.
According to Secretary of State John Kerry, an actual participant in the talks, the negotiations fell apart in early April when Israel abruptly stopped complying with the diplomatic stipulations and refused to fulfill its promise to release Palestinian prisoners and then announced the construction of 700 new settlement units in East Jerusalem as a provocation to the Palestinians. Even then, Palestinians did not call off negotiations, so Netanyahu ordered his entire government to stop all contacts with the Palestinians. Talks fell apart because of Israel (and before the reconciliation announcement).
Paul also lifts the State Department’s language when he says “Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with an entity that does not believe it should exist, and has used terrorist tactics to seek its end.” This is a level of hypocrisy that is difficult to stomach, considering the whole point of Israel’s position of continued occupation and expanded settlement in the West Bank is to position itself for eventual annexation of what remains of Palestinian land.
Paul calls on the Palestinians to renounce violence, but Israel’s constant violence against Palestinians goes unmentioned. Palestinian terrorism is condemned, but Israel’s is ignored. Indeed, “After the [reconciliation] agreement was announced,” reports the Guardian, Israel “launched an air strike on a site in the north of the Gaza Strip, wounding 12 people including children.” That clearly was an airstrike with a political purpose, not a security purpose. That’s kind of the definition of terrorism.
Israel denies Palestine’s right to exist as a state and has used constant terror against Palestinians. All of that is fine. Palestinians though, who are living under illegal occupation and continue to have their homes bulldozed and Jewish only homes built in their stead…they need to be condemned.
I understand Rand Paul’s motivation. He needs to throw red meat at the pro-Israel wing of the GOP in order to have a chance at the nomination. I guess one might as well do that with a toothless piece of legislation that does nothing beyond issuing a statement of support for Israel and hostility toward Palestinians. But here, he’s not even walking that thin line between libertarianism and right-wing belligerence; he’s all the way in the latter camp. And this is relatively new: if you remember back in 2011, Rand Paul was calling for an end to all foreign aid, including to Israel.
Which makes me wonder: what else is he willing to betray to get into the White House?