(CNN) – Republican Sen. Rand Paul is staying true to his message against sending millions in aid money overseas, even while visiting Israel, one of the largest beneficiaries of U.S. assistance.
"It will be harder to defend Israel if we destroy our country in the process," Paul said at the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies, according to the Jerusalem Post. "I think there will be significant repercussions to running massive deficits."
Paul, considered a potential 2016 presidential candidate, made his comments Monday at the start of his first trip to the Jewish state–a voyage made by many in the past with presidential aspirations.
According to the Post, the senator said his view may be different if the U.S. didn't borrow so much money from overseas. "To me it has always been about whether it makes sense for me to borrow money from China to give to Pakistan."
His office confirmed that Paul reiterated his stance on limiting aid. The freshman senator from Kentucky, who has long expressed libertarian views on foreign assistance, has proved willing to buck even those in his own party on matters of foreign policy. While serving as a surrogate for Mitt Romney last fall, Paul was not hesitant to criticize the GOP presidential nominee on international issues.
And in September, Paul pushed legislation that would strip Pakistan, Egypt and Libya of U.S. aid. He held up other votes, including a measure to continue funding the government, until the upper chamber held a vote on his bill. The aid measure was defeated.
Speaking Monday, Paul said he would not advocate for an immediate cutoff of U.S. aid overseas, especially in Israel.
"I'm all for gradualism," he said. "I would start a little more quickly with those who are enemies of Israel, and enemies of the US. I would like to see their aid end more quickly. With regards to Israel, it could be a gradual phenomenon."
A Congressional Research Service report from March 2012 stated the U.S. has provided $115 billion in bilateral assistance to Israel since World War II, with nearly all of the aid coming in the form of military assistance. For 2013, the Obama administration is requesting $3.1 billion, according to the report.
Paul has not denied that he's interested in a presidential run. According to a CNN/ORC International Poll released mid-December, 48% of Republicans said they were very or somewhat likely to support Paul for the GOP nomination in 2016.
Others who had stronger numbers in the poll included House Budget Chairman and 2012 GOP Vice Presidential Nominee Paul Ryan, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennslyvania also had 48%.