A clip of Mitt Romney speaking at a private fund-raiser in May shows the GOP presidential candidate questioning the prospect of ever reaching peace between Israelis and Palestinians, calling a path to a solution in the region "almost unthinkable to accomplish."
The clip, one of a series of videotaped remarks that were posted on the website of the left-leaning magazine Mother Jones, shows Romney speaking in more pessimistic tones about peace in the region than he generally does in public. The clip shows only Romney speaking, and does not include any questions that may have prompted his remarks.
"I'm torn by two perspectives in this regard," Romney is shown saying. "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."
Romney goes on to describe the obstacles he sees toward developing a so-called "two state solution" that would establish an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. He cites problems of geography, including the proximity to Tel Aviv of a potential border between the two states, as preventing any real progression toward the two states.
"These are problems -- these are very hard to solve, all right?" Romney says on the tape. "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'."
His role as president, Romney says, would be to "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," he concludes. "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."
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the executive committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, called Romney's comments "dangerous" Tuesday.
"He seems to think of himself as a mind reader since he claims to know what Palestinian intentions are," Ashrawi said. "It seems to me it is about time that he stops pandering to the Israeli lobby and funders by selling out Palestinian rights and by destroying the chances of peace in the region.
"Such statements are dangerous and could be irreparable damage to American credibility and standings not just in the Middle East but throughout the world," Ashrawi added.
Andrea Saul, a Romney campaign spokeswoman, said 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."
"And as he's often said, there is this one obvious truth: Peace will not be possible if the extreme elements of the Palestinian side refuse to come to the table for talks or to recognize Israel's right to exist," Saul said. "A possible unity government between Hamas -- a terrorist organization -- in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank would squelch the prospect for peace. Gov. Romney believes that the path to a two-state solution is to ensure the security of Israel and not to throw up any more barriers to the two sides engaging in direct negotiations."
"The decision as to where the borders would be, as we move to a two-state solution, which I support, that's a decision on borders that will be worked out by Israelis and the Palestinians," Romney told Blitzer in the interview, which was taped as the candidate was visiting Jerusalem as part of a three-country foreign swing. "I hope that's a process which is ongoing and ultimately successful. But as to the exact location of borders, that is something I will leave that to the negotiating parties themselves."
At a CNN-sponsored debate in Florida in January, however, Romney used terms similar to those used at the fund-raiser to address the notion of a two-state solution.
"There are some people who say, should we have a two-state solution? And the 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. The debate was held in the heat of the GOP primaries.
Romney continued: "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'."
Romney has consistently criticized President Barack Obama for his dealings with Israel, saying the president hasn't been a staunch-enough ally to the Jewish state in opposing Iran's nuclear ambitions. Taking a strong pro-Israel approach is a strategy the Romney campaign hopes will galvanize Jewish voters in the United States, as well as pro-Israel evangelicals who Romney struggled to court during the GOP primaries.
The tapes revealed Tuesday are the latest in a cache of material given to Mother Jones showing Romney speaking candidly to supporters at a fund-raiser. Appearing on MSNBC late Monday night, the author of the Mother Jones article, David Corn, said the event took place May 17 in Boca Raton, Florida, at the home of Sun Capital executive Marc Leder.
The person responsible for the footage said he or she wishes to remain anonymous for "professional reasons and to avoid a lawsuit," according to the Huffington Post, which also published the tapes. Furthermore, the video was altered dramatically -- but retains the audio from the event -- to mask the location and date of the fund-raiser with high-dollar donors.
Romney video leaked has candidate saying half of Americans think of selves as "victims"
Mitt Romney, speaking to reporters Monday night at a hastily called news conference meant to blunt the impact of a newly released video, said that he chose his critical words about Obama’s supporters poorly but did not back down from their substance.
“It’s not elegantly stated, let me put it that way. I’m speaking off the cuff in response to a question and I’m sure I can state it more clearly and in a more effective way than I did in a setting like that,” he said, before calling on the source of the video to release the full recording.
“But it’s a message which I’m going to carry and continue to carry -- which is, look, the president’s approach is attractive to people who are not paying taxes because, frankly, my discussion about lowering taxes isn’t as attractive to them, and therefore I’m not likely to draw them into my campaign as effectively as those who are in the middle,” Romney said.
The GOP nominee, who is already facing internal turmoil in his campaign against President Obama, was confronted Monday by a video showing him describing Obama’s supporters as believing they are victims, reliant on the government for handouts and not paying income taxes.
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the 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,” Romney said in the speech to Florida donors, which was leaked to the news organization Mother Jones.
Recorded last May, it was posted online Monday. “That that's an entitlement. And [they believe] the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.”
Romney said in the video that he had no hope of swaying these people to his side.
"[M]y job is not to worry about those people,” Romney said. “I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
The Obama campaign immediately lashed out at Romney, saying that he had insulted half the population.
“It's shocking that a candidate for President of the United States would go behind closed doors and declare to a group of wealthy donors that half the American people view themselves as ‘victims,’ entitled to handouts, and are unwilling to take ‘personal responsibility’ for their lives,” said Obama campaign manager Jim Messina. “It’s hard to serve as president for all Americans when you’ve disdainfully written off half the nation.”
Romney’s campaign called the news conference Monday evening shortly before a fundraiser at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. The candidate stood by his statement and took three questions from the media. He erroneously said the video was released a few weeks ago.
Romney explained his remarks by saying that those who pay no taxes or rely on government services would be less likely to be swayed by his message, and that reflects the differing worldviews of himself and Obama.
“The president believes in what I’ve described as a government-centered society, where government plays a larger and larger role, provides for more and more of the needs of individuals. And I happen to believe instead in a free enterprise, free individual society where people pursuing their dreams are able to employ one another, build enterprises, build the strongest economy in the world,” he said.