Rand Paul Embraces Israel
He feels a “kinship” with the Jewish state.


Eliana Johnson

This is not the first time Segal has bridged the cultural divide. Back in the 1980s, when Rush Limbaugh was attacked as an anti-Semite for referring to the “Jewish lobby” on the air, Segal acted as his advocate in the Jewish community. The campaign against Limbaugh reached a climax when he was thrown out of New York City’s Parker Meridien hotel, where he had been staying temporarily after moving to New York City. Shortly thereafter, Zev Chafets recalls in his book Rush Limbaugh: An Army of One, Segal “got Limbaugh on the phone.” He told Limbaugh, “You haven’t done anything wrong, I will protect you.” Limbaugh in January recalled on the air that Segal “saved me with the New York Jewish community, ‘cause I didn’t know what [‘Jewish lobby’] meant.”

Limbaugh and Segal also traveled to Israel together, and Limbaugh repeatedly aired a highlight reel from the trip — it featured Limbaugh touring Masada, chatting with former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, praying at the Wailing Wall, and flying to a military briefing in the Golan Heights, all set to Jewish music — on the television show he hosted at the time. “And here I am about to conduct a Merkava 3 tank,” Limbaugh said as the video concluded. “Note that I look nothing like Michael Dukakis.”

The latest jaunt seems to have had its intended effect. Paul says the experience had an impact on him. “The spirituality of it, the historical relationship with Christianity and Judaism, just the linkage to all the stories of the Bible and just being there, being on the Sea of Galilee, those things are sort of beyond words.” Being in Israel also developed in him “a sense of kinship” with the people. “The one thing I’ve said over and over again is that we should quit sending money to countries that are burning our flag, and that, you know, that’s the one thing I think you’ll never see in Israel is anyone burning our flag.”

He still maintains that foreign aid to all nations, including Israel, should end, though he argues for closing the spigot to America’s enemies first and then gradually reducing the funding for American allies. By contrast, he remains more aggressive than most on the issue of Israel’s settlements. After meeting with Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat and others, he says, “You get the idea from them that they’re put off that American politicians would come over and tell them where neighborhoods could be built.” Paul argues that such decisions are “completely their business and not ours.” A New York Post column called his statements the most supportive since Sarah Palin’s 2009 assertion that Israel should be allowed to expand settlements.

Though Paul discourages reading too much into his trip — “When you get to Washington, everyone asks you, ‘When do you want to go to Israel?’” — he acknowledges that he needs to strike out on his own, given his father’s well-known foreign-policy views: “I guess I don’t look at it in really a calculated way. I am my own person and as I move forward I have to and want to present to the public . . . in my state and elsewhere, who I am and what I stand for, but it’s not so much that I want to say ‘Oh, I’m different on this, this, and this,’ it’s really getting beyond the comparison just to being who I am.”

Lane left Jerusalem satisfied, having learned what he set out to discover: Paul, he says, is a believer. “When we were there, they had an eight- or ten-year drought going on. The week we were there, they ended the drought, it rained like hell.” En route to Galilee, their bus encountered rockslides and collapsed bridges, and the group was stranded on the vehicle for hours. They turned to the tour bus’s sound system for entertainment. “Rand said that he wanted to hear ‘Stairway to Heaven’ by Guns N’ Roses,” Lane recalls. (The senator’s office writes to say the request was actually for “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.”) Then he requested a song by Aimee Allen, who famously sang “The Ron Paul Anthem” at a concert for the elder Paul during his presidential campaign. Asked about Allen, Paul told Lane, “She’s just gone through awful stuff and she’s turned her life around.”

“So, she’s a believer?” Lane asked. “Yup, she’s a believer,” Paul responded.

– Eliana Johnson is media editor of National Review Online.


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