Rand Paul’s Mideast trip fuels presidential speculation

by James R. Carroll, Courier-Journal.com  |  published on December 24, 2012

Rand Paul

In another sign that he may be considering a White House bid, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul is planning a trip next year to Israel, accompanied by activists from Iowa and South Carolina — two key states in any Republican presidential campaign.

Paul — a Kentuckian who has said he is considering a 2016 presidential run but has made no decision — is looking to make his first trip to Israel and Jordan sometime in the new year, he said in an interview. He didn’t specify the date, citing security reasons.

He has confirmed meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli President Shimon Peres, as well as with several government ministers and members of the Knesset, according to the senator’s office. Paul also is arranging meetings with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian National Authority, Jordan’s King Abdullah and others.

Paul said some critics have depicted him as anti-Israel because he favors cutting foreign aid, but he called that depiction a “misrepresentation.”

“It is not my position to be against Israel,” the senator said. “I’m appreciative of the fact that Israel is a democracy, one of the few true democracies in the Middle East, and I’m also appreciative that they’ve been a close friend and ally.”

Paul said that foreign aid cuts “should start with countries who have not been good allies. … I wouldn’t start with Israel.

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