Romney on Middle East Peace: "There's Just No Way"

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 18 2012 10:09 AM

Another Day, Another Snippet From Romney's Private Fundraiser

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Mitt Romney leaves after addressing the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles on Monday

Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/GettyImages.

Mother Jones is out with a new video snippet from Mitt Romney's secretly-recorded remarks at a private fundraiser earlier this year. The latest comment that could cause headaches for the GOP hopeful: His assertion that peace in the Middle East is nearly impossible and that a Palestinian state in specific is not feasible.

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

"These are problems—these are very hard to solve, all right?," Romney tells the donors after laying out what he sees as the many hurdles to peace in the region. "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.' And so what you do is you say, 'You move things along the best way you can.'" It is not clear from the video whether Romney was responding to a question or not.

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His private remarks differ from the stance he has taken in public where he has declared support for the two-state solution. It remains to be seen, however, whether they will generate the same degree of blow back as Romney's suggestion that anyone who doesn't pay income tax will automatically vote for Obama because they see themselves as victims. Similar to how Romney stood by that comment Monday night, his spokeswoman offered a similar reaction to his comments about the Middle East, telling CNN that the tape showed Romney laying out "a detailed description of the many difficult issues that must be solved in order to reach a two-state solution."

As you'll see from the video (and transcript below), Romney's answer was a bit long-winded and meandering, something that will likely make it more difficult for his critics to boil it down to a soundbite in an attack ad. Nonetheless, it is one more problem for his campaign to deal with in a week that has already proved to be a difficult one. The latest video also suggests that MoJo may be planning a slow roll out of the footage, which could continue to force Romney to play defense at a time when his staff have said they are eager to reboot the campaign with a focus on policy specifics.

Here's the video:

Here's the quote (as transcribed by MoJo):

I'm torn by two perspectives in this regard. One is the one which I've had for some time, which is that the Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace, and that the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish. Now why do I say that? Some might say, well, let's let the Palestinians have the West Bank, and have security, and set up a separate nation for the Palestinians. And then come a couple of thorny questions. And I don't have a map here to look at the geography, but the border between Israel and the West Bank is obviously right there, right next to Tel Aviv, which is the financial capital, the industrial capital of Israel, the center of Israel. It's—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." Well, that means that—who? The Israelis are going to patrol the border between Jordan, Syria, and this new Palestinian nation? Well, the Palestinians would say, "Uh, no way! We're an independent country. You can't, you know, guard our border with other Arab nations." And now how about the airport? How about flying into this Palestinian nation? Are we gonna allow military aircraft to come in and weaponry to come in? And if not, who's going to keep it from coming in? Well, the Israelis. Well, the Palestinians are gonna say, "We're not an independent nation if Israel is able to come in and tell us what can land in our airport." These are problems—these are very hard to solve, all right? 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." And so what you do is you say, "You move things along the best way you can." You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that this is going to remain an unsolved problem. 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. On the other hand, I got a call from a former secretary of state. I won't mention which one it was, but 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?" And, you know, his answer was, "Yes, I think there's some prospect." And I didn't delve into it.