Washington: Mitt Romney told donors the Palestinians “have no interest whatsoever” in peace with Israel and if elected president he would just kick the issue down the road, a leaked video showed Tuesday.
Trailing in the polls, the Republican candidate could have done without the embarrassing disclosure as he desperately tries to make up ground on Democratic President Barack Obama with seven weeks to go until Americans vote on November 6.
Romney had already faced a barrage of criticism over initial excerpts from the May 17 fundraiser in which he writes off Democratic voters as “victims” that are beyond his help.
The liberal news magazine Mother Jones revealed more of Romney’s remarks from the $50,000-a-plate Florida event on Tuesday, this time on foreign policy, and particularly related to the Israeli-Palestinian question.
Romney’s commander-in-chief credentials were already under the microscope after he was widely condemned for a bitter attack on Obama in the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi assault, which claimed the lives of four Americans, including the US ambassador to Libya.
Asked at the fundraiser if the “Palestinian problem” can be solved, Romney replied that the Palestinians have “no interest whatsoever in establishing peace, and that the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish.”
Displaying little nuance about different factions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, his remarks appeared to dismiss the possibility that any Palestinian leaders are willing to work towards peace with Israel.
“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,” he said.
“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 — and we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it.”
Romney, who has frequently criticized Obama for damaging relations with Israel, added: “The idea of pushing on the Israelis to give something up to get the Palestinians to act is the worst idea in the world.”
He has consistently attacked what he says is Obama’s weak and misguided Middle East policy, saying in January that the president “threw Israel under the bus,” by defining the 1967 borders as a starting point for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Romney infuriated the Palestinians in July when he endorsed Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state during a visit to Israel.
At the fundraiser, after writing off Palestinians as “committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel,” he went on to criticize Obama over his foreign policy, saying the president was “naive.”
Obama believes his “magnetism,” “charm” and “persuasiveness” can convince Russian President Vladimir Putin, Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to stop doing bad things, Romney said, adding: “It’s an extraordinarily naive perception.”
The White House could barely suppress its glee after the first excerpts emerged on Monday evening with Romney saying 47 percent of Americans are essentially freeloaders who will vote for the president “no matter what.”
“It’s hard to serve as president for all Americans when you’ve disdainfully written off half the nation,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in a statement.
Romney held a hastily-arranged press conference on Tuesday night in Los Angeles to try to stem the bleeding, conceding that his “off the cuff” remarks had not been “elegantly stated.”
Since the party conventions two and three weeks ago, Obama has pulled ahead of Romney. Opinion polls show the Democratic incumbent ahead both nationally and in the key battleground states.