WASHINGTON, USA (AFP) — Mitt Romney told donors the Palestinians "have no interest whatsoever" in peace with Israel and if elected president he would just kick the issue down the road, a leaked video showed yesterday.
The Republican White House hopeful had already faced a barrage of criticism over initial excerpts from the May 17 fundraiser in which he writes off Democratic voters as "victims" that are beyond his help.
The liberal news magazine Mother Jones revealed more excerpts from the US$50,000-a-plate Florida event yesterday, this time on foreign policy, particularly related to the Israeli-Palestinian question.
Romney's commander-in-chief credentials were already under the microscope after he was widely condemned for launching a bitter attack on President Barack Obama in the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi assault, which claimed the lives of four Americans, including the Libyan ambassador.
Asked at the fundraiser if the "Palestinian problem" can be solved, Romney replied that the Palestinians have "no interest whatsoever in establishing peace, and that the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish."
Displaying little nuance about different Palestinian factions, his remarks appear to dismiss the possibility that any Palestinian leaders are willing to work towards peace with Israel.
"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," he said.
"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 — and we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it."
Romney, who has frequently criticised Obama for damaging relations with Israel, added: "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 has consistently attacked what he says is Obama's weak and misguided Middle East policy, saying in January that the president "threw Israel under the bus," by defining the 1967 borders as a starting point for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Romney infuriated the Palestinians in July when he endorsed Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state during a visit to Israel.
Since the party conventions two and three weeks ago, Obama has put some daylight between himself and Romney and opinion polls now show the Democratic incumbent ahead both nationally and in several key battleground states.