Just hours after Mitt Romney struggled to explain a blunt cultural assessment revealed in a leaked video from a private fund-raiser, footage of an equally blunt foreign policy assessment from the same event threatened to further derail his efforts to focus on his domestic economic policy. In a new video posted by Mother Jones, a liberal magazine, Romney says the West Asia peace process is “going to remain an unsolved problem.”
Romney has sought to cast himself as a turnaround expert, a fixer who can fashion success from the wreckage of a failing company, Olympics, or economy. But the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he can be heard saying in the video posted to the Mother Jones Web site on Tuesday morning, is a case where “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.”
He later added, “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.’ “
Romney continues, “You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognise that this is going to remain an unsolved problem,” and compares the Middle East peace process to the volatile relationship between China and Taiwan.
At a news conference late Monday night, Romney sought to explain remarks from earlier leaked videos from the same fund-raising dinner in May, saying his descriptions of voters who “pay no income tax” as people who would probably support President Obama because they believe they are “victims” and are “dependent upon government” were “not elegantly stated.” The comments, secretly recorded before being obtained and posted by Mother Jones, threatened to derail the campaign’s efforts to focus on the positive aspects of Romney’s economic plan, and the new excerpts about Israel seem likely to push message control even further out of reach.
Romney expressed regret about the wording of his remarks about lower-income people, but noted that the substance was in keeping with other public remarks he has made. Likewise, Romney’s official Israel position invokes a hawkish commitment to Israel and does not officially back a two-state solution.
“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 says in the video, echoing a critique on his Web site of the Obama administration as “pressuring Israel without extracting any price from the Palestinians in return.”
In a statement Tuesday morning, Andrea Saul, a Romney spokeswoman, said Romney had “laid out a detailed description of the many difficult issues that must be solved in order to reach a two-state solution. And as he has 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 recognise Israel’s right to exist. A possible unity government between Hamas — a terrorist organisation — in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank would squelch the prospect for peace.
“Governor 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.”
Mother Jones also features Romney’s remarks on Iran and Obama’s foreign policy, in both cases forceful reiterations of his established views.
The original daily email briefing to reporters from the Romney campaign did not directly mention any of the leaked footage. The campaign had instead hoped to focus on an economic message Tuesday, with a new television ad that makes an economic appeal directly to women.
“Dear daughter, welcome to America,” the spot opens, with footage of a woman carrying an infant. “Your share of Obama’s debt is $50,000,” the narrator immediately continues, before blaming Obama’s policies for poverty and unemployment among women.
But the fallout from the leak of the fund-raiser video was likely to make this the second time in two weeks that Romney’s foreign policy comments would distract from his domestic message. His fast reaction to the protests in Egypt and Libya — criticising a statement by the American Embassy in Cairo before it was known that American foreign service officials had been killed in Libya — drew criticism last week.
This is not the first time Romney has created controversy with his remarks about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. During a July fund-raiser in Israel, Romney said “culture makes all the difference” as he noted economic disparities between Israel and the Palestinian territories. Palestinians viewed the comment as disparaging and insensitive to effect of Israeli blockades.
© 2012 The New York Times News Service