Jewish donors to the 2016 presidential campaign, wary of Sen. Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) longstanding reputation for isolationism, are trying to figure out how a Paul presidency might treat Israel differently than previous presidencies. It doesn't take much figuring.
Had the famously libertarian Paul been president instead of Barack Obama or George W. Bush, he wouldn't have stopped Israel from taking out Iran's nuclear bomb capabilities when the taking was easy. Iran, as a result, would have been greatly diminished, rather than ascendant as it now is, in control of much of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon and in pursuit of others.
Had Paul been president instead of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, he wouldn't have tried to prevent Israel from taking out Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's Osirak nuclear reactor, and then punished Israel when it went ahead anyway by embargoing delivery of the F-16 fighters Israel needed for its defense.
Had Paul been president instead of Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s, he wouldn't have raised to prominence Palestinian autonomy, until then a side issue. Without Carter's intervention, the peace deal that Israel subsequently signed with Jordan would in all likelihood have returned most of the West Bank to Jordan, just as Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt following its peace treaty. Jordan wanted the West Bank back, distrusted Arafat's ambitions and rejected the idea of a Palestinian state in the West Bank.
Had Paul been president instead of Richard Nixon during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, he wouldn't have pressured Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir to refrain from a preemptive attack on Egypt and Syria. The result of forcing Israel to be a sitting duck led to some 10,000 Israeli casualties, including 2,700 deaths.
The U.S. restrained Israel on these and other occasions in the belief that courting the Muslim states of the Middle East, rather than humbling their military capabilities, would earn Muslim gratitude and ultimately make the U.S. more secure. Instead of gratitude, the U.S. was repaid with the Iranian hostage crisis, 243 dead Marines in Beirut, the U.S.S. Cole bombing, the bombing of its African embassies, the Black Hawk Down debacle in Somalia, the first World Trade Center attack in 1993, the second on 9/11, two wars in Iraq, one in Afghanistan, and the prospect of more to come.
Many backers of Israel fear that Paul's plan to cut off the $3 billion a year in U.S. military aid to Israel would give its Muslim enemies the upper hand. These backers forget that Israel won wars in the past when the U.S. militarily aided the Arabs and not Israel, and when Israel didn't have its current economic and military clout. In any event, Paul wants to cut off aid to Israel's enemies first, and to Israel last, furthering Israel's relative strength.
Unlike past presidents, whose attempts to be evenhanded emboldened America's enemies at Israel's expense, Paul's brand of evenhandedness — hands off everyone — would diminish America's enemies, thus enhancing Israel's military superiority in the Middle East.
This military superiority would also serve to protect the homeland. As an example, Paul wouldn't need to re-invade Iraq to take out the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or other hostile groups planning to use the Middle East as a staging ground against the United States. An empowered Israel would clean out such threats in its neighborhood before they materialized, just as it took out budding nuclear threats in both Syria and Iraq, and wants to do in Iran.
Jewish donors provide an outsized contribution to political parties: They represent some 20 percent of Republican and some 50 percent to 60 percent of Democratic funding, explaining why Democrats and Republicans alike vie for their support. Those donors who value Israel's existence, and America's security, need not fear a President Paul.