Governor Mitt Romney said on Thursday that the Palestinians are not interested in a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, rather that they are interested in the elimination of the State of Israel.
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The Republican presidential candidate was prompted by a question posed by a Palestinian-American Republican at a CNN-sponsored debate in Jacksonville, Florida on Thursday night.
"Israelis would be happy to have a two-state solution. It's the Palestinians who don't want a two-state solution; they want to eliminate the State of Israel, Romney said.
Romney was responding when the man asked, "How would a Republican administration help bring peace to Palestine and Israel, when most candidates barely recognize the existence of Palestine or its people?"
Romney went on to say that whether it's in the political discourse that is spoken either from Fatah or from Hamas, there is a belief that the Jewish people do not have the right to have a Jewish state."
"I believe the best way to have peace in the Middle East is not for us to vacillate and to appease, but is to say we stand with our friend Israel; we are committed to a Jewish state in Israel; we will not have an inch of difference between ourselves and our ally Israel," he added.
Romney attacked President Barack Obama's policy saying,"This president went before the United Nations and castigated Israel for building settlements. He said nothing about thousands of rockets being rained on Israel from the Gaza Strip.
"This president threw Israel under the bus with regards to defining the '67 borders as the starting point of negotiations. I think he disrespected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Bibi Netanyahu. I think he has time and time again shown distance from Israel, and that created, in my view, a greater sense of aggression on the part of the Palestinians," Romney added.
Former Speaker of House Newt Gingrich, who was asked to comment on his statement calling Palestinians an invented people, stood by his controversial remarks.
"It was technically an invention of the late 1970s," Gingrich explained. "Prior to that they were Arabs.
He went on to talk about the issue of rocket fire from Gaza into Israel.
There were 11 rockets fired into Israel in November. Now imagine in Duval County that 11 rockets hit from your neighbor. How many you'd be for a peace process and how many of you'd say, you know, that looks like an act of war?" he said.
In a rare instance of harmony in this intense battle among the Republican candidates, Gingrich said Romney was right in his answer.
"On the first day that I am president, if I do become president, I will sign an executive order directing the State Department to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to send the signal we're with Israel," Gingrich said.
The National Jewish Democratic Council released a statement regarding what Romney said about President Obama.
"Governor Romney said that the President castigated Israel during his speech at the United Nations in September. He did no such thing," the statement said.
Mr. Romney said the President made no reference to the 'thousands of rockets being rained in on Israel from the Gaza Strip;' indeed, President Obama specifically cited how 'Israels citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses' on the world stage of the United Nations in September. Enough is enough. The outright lies, smears and distortions of President Obama's stellar Israel record must stop," National Jewish Democratic Council President & CEO David A. Harris wrote.