Sen. Rand Paul doesn’t explicitly deny his eight-day visit to the Holy Land represents the launch of a 2016 Republican presidential nomination run.
“I consider it as more an effort to become part of an international stage,” the freshman Kentucky Republican said.
But at least some of the 40 evangelical Protestant leaders and noted frum philantropist Dr. Rich Roberts of Lakewood, NJ, traveling with Mr. Paul may think otherwise.
“This trip to meet with Israelis, Arabs and Palestinians is absolutely the first step in his 2016 White House campaign,” said David Lane, evangelical political organizer and president of the Los Angeles-based Pastors and Pews.
Mr. Paul joined the pastors on a tour bus climbing its way to the Israeli side of the 9,000-foot Golan Heights – the other side of the heights is Syrian territory.
Many others on the bus are convinced they are seeing him start a political climb to even greater heights.
“I certainly hope this [trip] catapults him into the 2016 presidential race,” said best-selling author and Citadel Prof. Mallory Factor, a Jewish-American admirer of the junior senator from Kentucky.
As the son of former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, whose conservative libertarian views alienated many Israel supporters in both here and in the United States, the younger Mr. Paul said he had come to show he is a friend of Israel’s – but also that he thinks enhanced Palestinian-Israeli trade and a thriving economy will encourage a permanent peace in the region.
Veteran evangelical communications strategist Larry Ross, for many years associated with evangelist Billy Graham, is another of the 53 pastors, evangelical activists and Jewish leaders on the bus touring Israel. Mr. Ross said he was impressed “by Rand’s outside-the-box solutions to peace in the region.”
At a private dinner at the Jerusalem home of a London business and Jewish leader, Mr. Paul politely challenged a cabinet official in the Israeli government who contended it was impossible to with deal with Palestinian leaders because their only goal was the elimination of Israel as an independent state.
“Instead of nodding his head in agreement with his Israeli hosts at the dinner as most American politicians would do, Paul said he disagreed and suggested ways to improve trade with the Palestine Authority, Gaza and Israel to raise the living standard of the Palestinians and give them a bigger stake in peace,” Mr. Ross said.
Iowa Republican Party Chairman A.J. Spiker, who describes himself as a conservative Catholic, said he had been impressed with the “way Rand brings people together – and raises the level of debate over the problems between Israel and the Arab nations well above what other politicians do.”
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