WASHINGTON – Mitt Romney, in another set of fundraiser video clips that emerged this morning, told a group of donors in May that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “is going to remain an unsolved problem” in large part because “the Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace.”
The video clips, taken secretly during a private fundraiser in May and released to the liberal magazine Mother Jones, is the second set to emerge over the past day. The latest batch doesn’t appear to have as damaging a clip as the one on Monday in which Romney disparaged 47 percent of Americans as supporters as government dependents who will vote for President Obama no matter what.
That clip triggered a rushed late-night press conference in which Romney stood by his positions but said they were expressed inartfully. Romney also called on whoever had secretly taped the fundraiser to release the full video, rather than sending out clips in drips and drabs.
In the videos that appeared early this morning, Romney discusses some of his foreign policy positions in more slightly more pointed ways than he does publicly. When he went on his foreign trip to Israel in July, for example, he suggested to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that he was more hopeful for a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“I believe in a two-state solution which suggests there will be two states, including a Jewish state,” he said.
But during the fundraiser, which took place about two months before his trip, Romney went through several reasons why a Palestinian state would not work – largely because of its close proximity to Israel, he said, and because Iran would try to exert influence.
“These are problems—these are very hard to solve, all right?” Romney said. “And I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes -- committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues -- and I say, ‘There’s just no way.’ ”
“You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that this is going to remain an unsolved problem,” he added. “I mean, we live with that in China and Taiwan. All right, 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. We don’t go to war to try and resolve it imminently.”
Romney then noted that there was some reason for hope. He said he got a call from a former secretary of state -- “I won’t mention which one it was,” he said -- who said there was a prospect for peace.
“I said, ‘Really?’ ” Romney said. “And, you know, his answer was, ‘Yes, I think there’s some prospect.’ And I didn’t delve into it.”
Romney also suggested that exerting pressure on the Israelis, as President Obama has tried to do, was the wrong approach. “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 said.
Most of the private comments about one of the most persistent conflicts in the Middle East are in line with Romney’s public comments on the topic, even though they are more pessimistic about the prospects for peace. Romney has been stridently supportive of Israel -- and criticial of President Obama for not being more so -- and has been criticial of the Palestinians.
During a fundraiser earlier in July that was held in Jerusalem, Romney triggered anger among Palestinians by suggesting that their culture was one of the reasons their economy was not as vibrant as Israel’s.
As then, Romney’s latest comments about the peace process have caused Palestinians to scratch their heads. >
“Such an irresponsible pronouncement does not serve the cause of peace,” Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian legislator and a top Palestine Liberation Organization official, said in an interview with the Globe.
“I’m really amazed,” she added. “If you are a leader and hope to claim the highest pole, you can’t say this is too difficult. If you think you will drop anything as complicated or difficult means you abdicated responsibility.”
Saeb Erekat, a top Palestinian negotiator with the Israelis, disagreed that they were not eager to find a solution.
“I hope that if Mitt Romney had really said that, he would reconsider this,” he said in an interview. “Palestinians and Israelis need peace and need all those who can help make peace...Those who believe in democracy and peace must redouble their efforts. I hope Mr. Romney will redouble his efforts to see that peace is achievable in the region.”
During the Florida fundraiser, Romney also highlighted the need to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, but he did it in a different way than he does on the campaign trail.
“If I were Iran—a crazed fanatic, I’d say let’s get a little fissile material to Hezbollah, have them carry it to Chicago or some other place,” he said. “And then if anything goes wrong, or America starts acting up, we’ll just say, ‘Guess what? Unless you stand down, why, we’re going to let off a dirty bomb.’ ”
“I mean this is where we have—where America could be held up and blackmailed by Iran, by the mullahs, by crazy people,” he added. “So we really don’t have any option but to keep Iran from having a nuclear weapon.”
Romney also lamented that foreign policy was not a more pressing issue in the campaign discussion. When he does several fundraisers a day, he said, “the number of foreign policy questions I get are between zero and one.”
“The American people are not concentrated at all on China, on Russia, Iran, Iraq,” he added.
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.