Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul revealed this week that he would support moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a surprising position that contradicts conventional wisdom about Paul’s stance toward the Jewish state.
Paul first made this position known Wednesday night, during a private meeting with evangelical leaders interested in helping the Texas Congressman reach out to the conservative Christian community.
According to a transcript of the meeting obtained by Business Insider, the leaders started off the meeting by asking Paul whether he would sign an Executive Order to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a major policy objective for Israeli hardliners and many leaders in the Christian Right.
“The real issue here is not what America wants, but what does Israel want,” Paul told evangelical leaders, according to a transcript of the meeting obtained by Business Insider. “If Israel wants their capital to be Jerusalem, then the United States should honor that.”
“How would we like it if some other nation said ‘We decided to recognize New York City as your capital instead, so we will build our embassy there?'” he added.
Even Paul’s senior campaign aides were surprised by his response.
“We were floored,” senior advisor Doug Wead told Business Insider. “It sounds like pure Ron Paul, but it still caught us off guard…If someone would have asked him that in a national debate, I suppose it would have popped right out, but nobody did!”
Wead added that Paul’s position “makes sense after the fact,” noting that the candidate has frequently emphasized Israel’s sovereignty.
Still, Paul’s stance will likely come as a surprise to GOP leaders, most of whom view Paul’s non-interventionist foreign policy ideas — and particularly his stance towards Israel — as his greatest weakness. The septuagenarian Congressman has largely been snubbed by the right-wing Jewish community, and was even excluded from a December presidential candidates’ forum hosted by the Republican Jewish Coalition because of his “misguided and extreme” foreign policy views.
“I appreciate what he said about Israel — as a matter of fact, I was pleasantly surprised,” Brian Jacobs, a Texas pastor who attended Wednesday’s meeting, told Business Insider. “It helped answer a lot of questions that I had.”