Mitt Romney is nothing if not predictable. Thanks to Mother Jones, we now know his private thoughts about the Israel-Palestinian conflict. And they track, almost perfectly, the public thoughts of Benjamin Netanyahu and the American Jewish right.
Romney at American Israel Public Affairs Committee
Mother Jones caught Romney telling some Florida gazillionaires that “the Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace.” Note the breezy and categorical nature of the statement. To be sure, one can plausibly argue that the Palestinians won’t make the concessions—especially on refugee return—necessary to bring about a two-state solution, especially with Hamas breathing down Mahmoud Abbas’s neck. But that’s hardly self-evident. Surveys by the most eminent Palestinian pollster, Khalil Shikaki, suggest that while a slight majority of Palestinians oppose the two-state parameters Bill Clinton laid out in December 2001, Palestinian public opinion is sharply divided. (Interestingly, Shikaki found that a majority of Palestinians back the 2002 Saudi plan, perhaps because it promises a return to the 1967 lines, which the Clinton parameters do not, perhaps because its wording on refugee return, though ambiguous, is somewhat stronger, and perhaps because it has Arab provenance.) As for Abbas’s personal interest in a two-state deal, no less an authority than former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, who negotiated extensively with him in 2008, has declared, “Don’t tell me there is no partner. There is a partner. [Mahmoud Abbas] wants peace with Israel.” The Israeli website Ynet reported that in 2011, Palestinian negotiators handed representatives of the U.S.-led Quartet a proposal for a Palestinian state along the 1967 lines with a 1.9 percent land swap. That’s in sharp contrast to Netanyahu, who as I detail in my book, has never offered any specific border proposals, and has publicly rejected the idea of a peace deal based upon the 1967 lines plus land swaps, the idea at the heart of the Clinton parameters, which Barack Obama tried to revive last May. All of which is to say that the evidence of who does and does not want a two-state solution is a lot more ambiguous than Romney suggests. But for Romney, as for so many of his backers, that’s irrelevant. Palestinian rejectionism is simply taken for granted.
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