(CNN)Meeting with a friendly group of Jewish leaders on Monday, Sen. Rand Paul was asked to clear up perceptions that he's an "isolationist" and not a strong enough supporter of Israel.
Rand Paul explains foreign policy views to Jewish leaders
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The Kentucky Republican faced $1 million in negative television ads from a hawkish group during his first week as a presidential candidate but his political team doesn't see the opposition as much of a problem as it might have been two or three years ago.
"People who say things in the media that are your competitors, will say things that sometimes aren't true," he said. "But I think we've made great progress."
Paul's comments came in an appearance at the National Society for Hebrew Day Schools headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, just days after he declined an invitation to speak at the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas.
Paul has been working to reframe narratives that he's too dovish on foreign policy, particularly when it comes to Israel. Critics point to his call to ultimately end all foreign aid, including to Israel, saying the Jewish country will be better off in the end if it can be completely independent.
The senator mentioned that he's met with Jewish leaders in 10 different cities and held numerous meetings in his Washington office. He also referenced his "Stand with Israel" bill, legislation that would end foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority unless it cuts ties with Hamas. He also noted that his campaign's digital guru, Vincent Harris, worked on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent campaign.
On the interim deal that the U.S. reached with Iran over its nuclear development program, Paul said he favored continued negotiations but also pointed to how he sided with Senate Republicans who wrote a letter to Iran saying any deal must be passed by Congress.
"The interim agreement that we are under now, while not perfect, is better than no agreement and no inspection. And it's better than the military option, frankly," he said.
"The people who say 'This will be done if we just bomb the Iranians,' I think they're simplifying what might happen if we bomb the Iranians," he said. "It could be that it steels their resolve and they have a nuclear weapon within in a year, and we're in a worse case."
Paul said he differs with other Republicans when it comes to putting troops on the ground in the fight against ISIS. While he supports the bombing campaign, he reiterated that he opposes sending U.S. soldiers to Syria, saying it should be Arab boots from the region instead.
"There are times you fight, times you don't," he said, adding that a vote for war should go through Congress. "We should have an intelligent debate about it, but we shouldn't just be doing it by the whim of a president."
He also repeated an argument he's made frequently on the campaign trail, that sometimes toppling a secular dictator in Muslim countries can lead to further unrest because it allows for radical extremists to take hold.
"It was a mistake to topple Hussein" in Iraq, he said, making the same point about Moammar Gadhafi in Libya.