TEL AVIV — Sen. Rand Paul kicked off his trip to Israel Sunday, joining several prominent GOP operatives for an eight-day tour that has heightened the Kentucky Republican’s international profile and fuelled further speculation about a 2016 presidential run. According to the itinerary for the trip, Paul has confirmed meetings this week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli President Shimon Peres, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, King Abdullah II, and other prominent Israeli politicians. For parts of the trip, Paul will also be accompanied by about 50 evangelical leaders and party activists, including the state GOP chairs of Iowa and South Carolina — two key early primary states.
The tour was funded by the conservative American Family Association, and organised by evangelical kingmaker David Lane and former pharmaceuticals executive Richard Roberts, a prominent member of the Orthodox Jewish community who donates heavily to the GOP.
The trip is the latest push to boost Paul’s foreign policy cred as he prepares to take his new seat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee later this month. It also offers the Senator another chance to distance himself from his father, retiring Texas Rep. Ron Paul, whose libertarian foreign policy views have been widely ridiculed by the GOP.
Like his father, Sen. Paul opposes foreign aid on principle; but he has tempered that position to focus primarily on cutting aid for countries in conflict with the U.S., like Egypt and Pakistan. In recent weeks, the Kentucky Senator has reached out to assure Republican Jewish leaders that he is not interested in cutting funding for Israel.
It seems likely that Paul will make similar overtures during his meetings here this week, although it is not clear whether it will be enough to satisfy Israel hardliners in either country. Paul’s visit also comes at a tense moment for Israel, which is poised to slide even further to the right after the country’s elections later this month.
Needless to say, it is going to be an interesting week for Paul and his fellow travellers. I’ll be covering the trip from the ground, so check back on Business Insider’s politics vertical, or follow me on Twitter @grace_lightning, for updates.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.