Romney Peace Plan: Public, Private

Photograph by David Buimovitch/AFP/Getty Images

An Israeli border policeman watches as a man surveys the damage caused by a rocket launched from the Palestinian Gaza Strip.

“As president, peace will be my solemn goal,” Republican Mitt Romney said in a public address to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee’s policy conference in Washington on March 6.

“A peace based not on empty assurances, but on true security and defensible borders,” Romney told AIPAC’s audience. “This will require American strength, and a demonstration of our resolve. That’s why, as president, my first foreign trip will not be to Cairo or Riyadh or Ankara. It will be to Jerusalem.”

Two months later, in a closed-door, $50,000-per-plate campaign fundraising dinner at the Boca Raton, Florida, home of a private equity executive on May 17, Romney said this to his audience:

“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.”’

“You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that this is going to remain an unsolved problem,” Romney told his campaign donors. “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.”

Romney has approached his campaign for the White House with sharp criticism for President Barack Obama’s handling of the Middle East, and in particular has questioned Obama’s commitment to Israel’s security. Romney’s fundraising comments, secretly video-recorded and released today by Mother Jones magazine, will limit his ability to fault Obama’s handing of the Israeli-Palestinian tensions, Richard Armitage, former U.S. deputy secretary of state under George W. Bush, told Bloomberg News.

“It’s difficult to criticize the president and his Middle East policy on the one hand, and then suggest, on the other hand, that the best you can do is kick the ball down the street,” Armitage said in a telephone interview today.

“It is simply the wrong approach to say we can’t do anything about it so we’ll just kick it down the field — that’s not leadership,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said. Peace is in the best interests of Israelis and Palestinians, he said, and “this president will continue to pursue it.”

Of course, Romney is not alone in his pessimism about peace. Aaron David Miller, who was a Middle East peace negotiator for President Bill Clinton, calls the odds of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement “almost slim to none.”

`I don’t care if it’s Obama or Romney,” he said, as Bloomberg’s Hans Nichols and John McCormick report today. “The question is what you do about it.”

For campaign-watchers, the question today centers on what Romney has said publicly about his “solemn goal” of peace, and what he has said privately about his view of a problem likely to “remain unsolved.”

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