the national interest

Mitt: Palestinians Are the 47 Percent

US Repulican party presidential candidate Mitt Romney stands in front of a picture of the Jerusalem Old City walls at an event in Jerusalem on July 29, 2012. Romney hailed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in an apparent endorsement of a position held by the Jewish state but never accepted by the international community.
Photo: Alex Kolomoisky/AFP/Getty Images

Mother Jones has released the second installment of its hit reality show where Mitt Romney stops being polite and starts getting real. Here, Romney explains that his plan to handle the Palestinian problem is basically Homer Simpson’s scheme to pass a test he hasn’t prepared for. (“I’ve been working on a plan. During the exam, I’ll hide under some coats and hope that somehow everything will work out.”) In his remarks, Romney lays out some of the barriers to a two-state solution, then sort of throws up his hands:

And so what you do is you say, “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. 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.

Unlike Romney’s deranged rant against the 47 percent, where he appeared to be speaking from the heart and had no reason to present himself in such terms to rich people who require only some general reassurance, Romney has a clear incentive here to cater to the views of his audience. Conservative Jewish donors have very right-wing views on Middle East policy. Romney’s comments here can easily be viewed as a pander as opposed to the unmasking of an authentic worldview.

The pander itself is a depressing, if familiar, window into conservative Republican thought on the Middle East. It’s a sadly myopic vision lacking any plausible long-term mechanism — so lacking that Romney can only say that hopefully one day “something” will happen. Romney is aware of the dangers of moving toward a two-state solution, which are real enough, but he seems blithe about the dangers of the status quo. It’s certainly true that lots of Palestinians want to destroy Israel (though it’s not true that “the Palestinians” as a whole want this, as Romney’s formulation implies), and this complicates the prospects for a negotiated settlement.

But there’s not a whole lot of evidence that continuing the occupation is making them hate Israel any less. And if you lack any plausible mechanism for delay to improve conditions, then a short-term focus on immediate security becomes, by default, a long-term plan for a one-state solution. That is the Netanyahu “strategy,” and Romney appears comfortable identifying himself with it.

Mitt: Palestinians Are the 47 Percent