Romney’s shocking realism on the Israel-Palestinian issue

In the same private meeting with donors last May in which Romney made the true but impolitic remark about the 47 percent, he also made the true, and utterly unprecedented (for a major presidential candidate), observation that the Palestinians have no interest in peace with Israel, and that it’s folly to pretend they do.

What Romney says here about the Palestinians is as shocking for a U.S. leader as Boris Yeltsin’s speeches in which for the first time a Russian leader spoke not like a Communist emitting Communist boilerplate but like a human being speaking human language. Every U.S. president as far back as we can remember has believed in and married himself to the “peace process” no matter how ridiculous and hopeless it was. The “peace process” fantasy was a tape, a ritual that took over whoever was president, as though it came with the job. Romney has broken with that completely. He says it’s over. In particular, note the realistic way he talks about the impossibility of a Palestinian state actually being a state, since Israel would need to control its borders and airspace. These things have been true forever, but, again, a top-level U.S. leader has never spoken this way.

It shows what I first sensed about Romney in 2007, that, for all his inadequacies, this is a man with a mind, who (occasionally, but not often enough to depend on it) uses his mind.

Here are Romney’s remarks, from the New York Times, “Romney’s Speech From Mother Jones Video,” September 19, 2012:

Following is the transcript of a video recorded during a private fund-raiser for Mitt Romney last May, published by Mother Jones magazine and transcribed by The New York Times.

CROWD MEMBER: Tonight’s your lucky night; more foreign policy. With the first time you were in Jerusalem, we appreciate you being there. How do you think that the Palestinian problem can be solved, and what are you going to do about it?

MR. ROMNEY: 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, just 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. I don’t have a map here to look up 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 seven miles from Tel Aviv to what would be the West Bank. Nine miles. The challenge is, 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, and what they did into Gaza. Which is the Iranians would want to bring missiles, that 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 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, “No way. We’re an independent country. You can’t guard our border with other Arab nations.”

And then how about the airport. How about flying into this Palestinian nation? Are we going to 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 going to say, “We’re not an independent nation if Israel is able to come in and tell us what to land at our airport.”

These problems—they’re very hard to solve. 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. So what you do is you move things along the best way you can, you hope for some degree of stability. But you recognize this is going to remain an unsolved problem. We live with that in China and Taiwan. 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—and 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, but you know, I always keep open the idea. But I have to tell you, the idea of pushing on the Israelis to give something up to get the Palestinians to act is the worst idea in the world. We have done that time and time and time again. It does not work. So the only answer is show strength, again. American strength, American resolve, and if the Palestinians someday reach a point where they want peace more than we’re trying to force peace on them, then it’s worth having the discussion. But until then it’s just wishful thinking.

[end of excerpt from Romney’s remarks]

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Allan Wall writes:

I too was impressed by Romney’s honesty and clear thinking on the 47 percent and on Israel. Is there any chance he could apply that sort of thinking to demographics and racial issues? If he’s going to, he’d better hurry.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 28, 2012 01:44 PM | Send

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