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In Israel, Paul advocates cuts in foreign aid

| Monday, Jan. 7, 2013, 5:48 p.m.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. pauses during a press briefing at a hotel in Jerusalem, Monday, Jan. 7, 2013. In his first visit to Israel, Paul on Monday called for a gradual reduction of American foreign aid. Israel is among the largest recipients of American assistance. (AP Photo/Aron Heller)

JERUSALEM — Sen. Rand Paul on Monday called for a gradual reduction of American foreign aid, delivering the message in an unlikely venue, because Israel is among the top recipients of American assistance.

Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, said the United States can't afford to keep borrowing money and then handing it out to others, even to allies like Israel.

“It will be harder to be a friend of Israel if we are out of money. It will be harder to defend Israel if we destroy our country in the process,” he told the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies, an Israeli think tank. “I think there will be significant repercussions to running massive deficits ... you destroy your currency by spending money you don't have.”

Paul, a longtime opponent of foreign aid, acknowledged he was expressing a “minority opinion” and doubted Congress would end foreign aid in his lifetime.

“It's unlikely anything changes, but I think it is worth discussing,” he said during his first trip to Israel.

Israel gets about $3 billion a year in military aid from the United States.

Paul insisted Washington should first cut aid to countries with strained ties to America, such as Pakistan and Egypt, and only later wean Israel off aid.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had stated he was interested in doing that.

Paul said the aid, used in large part by Israel and Egypt to buy weapons, was creating an arms race in the Middle East that ultimately could harm Israel, not help it.

“I'm concerned that some of the weaponry that we are currently giving to Egypt may one day be used against Israel,” he said.

A member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Paul is scheduled to meet with Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and other Israeli leaders before heading off for meetings in Jordan and with the Palestinian Authority.

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