U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was caught on video telling donors that the Palestinians have no interest in peace with Israel, and that they are commited to its destruction and elimination, according to footage newly released on Tuesday.
The remarks are in a video clip posted on Tuesday morning on the website of the Mother Jones magazine. The magazine said the video is from a $50,000-a-plate fundraiser in Boca Raton, Florida, on May 17. An earlier video released by Mother Jones on Monday, showed Romney telling donors that almost half of Americans "believe they are victims," who are entitled to welfare.
In the second video, Romney answered a question about the "Palestinian problem," adopting what seems to be the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's position: delay the solution.
“You hope for some degree of stability,” he said, but added, "We have a potentially volatile situation but we sort of live with it, and we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it," Romney told donors, adding later on that "the idea of pushing on the Israelis to give something up to get the Palestinians to act is the worst idea in the world."
Romney's statements contradict what he said in an interview with Haaretz's Ari Shavit last July, in which he expressed support for "a two-state solution which suggests there will be two states, including a Jewish state." In the interview, Romney added that "I respect Israel’s right to remain a Jewish state. The question is not whether the people of the region believe that there should be a Palestinian state. The question is if they believe there should be an Israeli state, a Jewish state.”
In the video published on Tuesday, Romney admitted that he has "two perspectives” on the issue. The first is that "the Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace, and that the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish."
“I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel,” he said.
The second perspective came from a former secretary of state, who Romney didn't name. "This individual said to me, you know, I think there's a prospect for a settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis after the Palestinian elections. I said, "Really?"
Romney's answer was pretty lengthy, and didn't seem to favor this other perspective. He earlier vividly outlined to donors the threats posed by a future Palestinian state, particularly in view of Iran's presence in the region, lambasting a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
"What the border would be? Maybe seven miles from Tel Aviv to what would be the West Bank.The other side of the West Bank, the other side of what would be this new Palestinian state would either be Syria at one point, or Jordan. And of course the Iranians would want to do through the West Bank exactly what they did through Lebanon, what they did near Gaza. Which is that the Iranians would want to bring missiles and armament into the West Bank and potentially threaten Israel. So Israel of course would have to say, ‘That can't happen. We've got to keep the Iranians from bringing weaponry into the West Bank,’” Romney said.
Later on Tuesday, the grandson of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter claimed he persuaded the source who secretly taped Romney to release the full video to the media.
James Carter IV said he was intrigued after seeing what he describes as a short, mysterious clip of Romney talking about Chinese factory conditions. He told The Associated Press that he tracked the source down on Twitter in August and convinced them to trust a journalist at Mother Jones magazine with the clips.
The Republican presidential candidate has never tried to position himself as a friend of the Palestinians or even as a fair intermediary. During his visit to Israel in August he did not visit Ramallah and he angered Palestinians a great deal when during a breakfast with wealthy donors in Jerusalem he explained that cultural differences were responsible for Israel’s economic success, as opposed to the Palestinian’s low GDP. When Palestinians called his remarks racist, he published an op-ed justifying them.
The Palestinian issue may not be the one that costs him the election, however. Romney's remarks in the first video released Monday by Mother Jones may be more of a problem for potential voters.
Romney told donors, “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”
He said that as a candidate for the White House, “my job is not to worry about those people.”
At a hastily called news conference late in the day, Romney offered no apologies for his remarks and when asked if he was concerned he had offended anyone, he conceded the comments weren’t “elegantly stated” and they were spoken “off the cuff.”
President Barack Obama’s campaign quickly seized on the video, which was made public on a day that Romney’s campaign conceded it needed a change in campaign strategy to gain momentum in the presidential race. The Obama team assembled the reactions of Americans on the street to Romney's remarks.
White House Spokesman Jay Carney said on Romney's remarks about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict: "That it's a difficult problem I think we can all agree on. That it is a challenge that previous presidents of both parties have embraced because they believe it's right for the country, they believe it's right for American interests, for the interests of Israelis, the interests of Palestinians, is also true. And it is simply the wrong approach to say, we can't do anything about it, so we'll just kick it down the field. That's not leadership. That's the opposite of leadership."
He added that peace between Israel and the Palestinians was a priority of the Obama adminstration. "This president has been working on this issue since the day he took office. It is a tough issue, but ultimately a negotiated peace that provides security for Israel and a state for the Palestinians - is in the interests of the Israelis and the Palestinians and is in the interests of the United States of America. And this president will continue to pursue it."
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