This week, Senator Rand Paul announced his intentions to introduce legislation in Congress that would end American foreign aid to Palestine until the government recognizes Israel’s “right to exist.” Paul justifies his decision as ensuring that the peace process will work—but many feel differently. Is Paul right to introduce such legislation? Is this action one of a reasonable non-interventionist foreign policy? To what extent should the U.S. be involved in the conflict in the first place? TOL authors weigh in:
I have seen lots of libertarians do mental gymnastics to try and paint what Paul has done here as a good thing, but it seems obvious to me that, rather than actually engaging in non-interventionism, he is just holding Palestine’s aid hostage to achieve a political end. He’s meddling in the affairs of a sovereign nation, and it’s just that simple. The extent to which I see some libertarians go to excuse/praise everything that Rand Paul does is truly disturbing. You can think that Rand Paul is a good candidate, even the best candidate available, without agreeing with everything he says or advocates for. Tripping over yourself to make everything he says good or libertarian when they are clearly not hurts your ability to see things objectively. I know that Rand Paul is the closest thing we’ve had to a realistic, semi-liberty-minded candidate in a long time, but I think it’s also crucial that we don’t make him our Obama—someone that we believed in blindly only to have it blow up in our faces.
I wish to only say this: I agree with Rand that Israel would be better off as a self-sufficient and autonomous state. Perhaps Rand proposed this legislation knowing that Palestine wouldn’t budge, therefore ensuring that the US no longer be obligated to fund them. I don’t mean to speak to his intentions because I admittedly do not know them, but in the past Rand has called for a strong and self-reliant Israel.“Well, I’m a big supporter of our alliance with Israel and nothing should come between that,” he said in 2013, “but…what is in the best interests of every country is self-sufficiency.” Rand Paul has proven to rarely lose sight of his objectives, and I don’t believe he has given in to dubious dealings for political gain. Is he meddling in the affairs of a sovereign nation? Perhaps. But this 60-year-long stalemate isn’t going to change until some of the variables do.
Rand Paul is very proficient with using his father’s language about cutting foreign aid and limiting foreign policy to national defense. But by selectively applying whose foreign aid is cut, he’s engaging in the same tired old games. Unwittingly, he’s actually providing a perfect example of why unnecessary foreign interventions should be avoided. With the full support of the United States, Israel does not come to the table with Palestine as though both were equals. Instead, the onus for all change is placed on Palestine. Palestine, sure in the knowledge that real concessions are unlikely to be matched by Israel, has little incentive to offer any. Without the destabilizing force of the United States, peace talks would happen on equal ground, with a greater likelihood of success. Of all people, Rand Paul should know the risks of unnecessary foreign intervention. It’s almost as though Rand Paul is trading in his father’s rhetoric for immediate political advantage.
I like my (pro-liberty) candidates non-interventionist with respect to domestic and international affairs. And I have not been able to get behind a prospective, Rand Paul 2016 campaign. As much of a detractor as I am, I hesitate to decry Paul’s pro-Israel stance. I am neither on Team Palestine nor Team Israel. But I do not think that an unpalatable stance (that is, what is unpalatable to some libertarians) on one issue is a sufficient reason to dismiss someone’s candidacy. Especially when it comes to libertarians or libertarian-esque types who have managed to break into the mainstream political scene. Rand Paul, at most, is one of those libertarian-esque types. Being in favor of “humanitarian” interventions and siding with Israel are not equivalent, by any means. Both compromise the non-interventionist philosophy, but endearing the hawkish voters on the Israel-Palestine issue does not make Rand Paul a neocon. He is non-interventionist, most of the time, anyway.
The Israel/Palestine conflict is a topic I have embarrassingly little knowledge about. Like, ZERO knowledge. I can remember it being on TV a lot throughout the 90s, along with various other armed conflicts in countries that no longer exist. I feel like it’s just assumed in discussions of American politics that everybody is already up to speed. Not knowing about Israel/Palestine is like not knowing that you have to file your taxes every year. Well hey: I don’t know. I understand the people who lived there up until 1948 or so were pissed off when a bunch of other people decided to, with the rest of the world’s blessing, displace them. I don’t know why the two sides have been unable to work it out in the last sixty years, or why this land war has been such a big deal to US politicians. Why do presidential candidates need “an Israel policy?” Not only do I not understand, but the nature of the discussion itself makes it impossible to learn anything. You can’t ask “Hey, can you explain to me why I should care about Israel?” without somebody comparing you to Hitler. So somebody, please, tell me: What’s the big deal?