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Romney: Peace between Palestinians and Israelis 'almost unthinkable'

Peace in the Middle East -- probably not going to happen, and it’s Palestinians’ fault, according to Mitt Romney.

That was the sentiment from the Republican nominee for president at a closed-door fundraiser, according to released excerpts of video from the left-leaning magazine Mother Jones. Romney painted Palestinians as “having no interest” in peace and “committed to the destruction of Israel.”

“I'm torn by two perspectives in this regard,” Romney said when asked how he thinks the “Palestinian problem can be solved.” “One is the one that 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.”

This contradicts public comments from Romney that he believes in a "two-state solution." “I believe in a two-state solution which suggests there will be two states, including a Jewish state," he told the newspaper Haaretz.

Romney talks about the difficulty in establishing borders for an independent Palestine that would allow Israelis to thwart the flow of weapons from Iran to the region.

“We have got to keep the Iranians from bringing weaponry into the West Bank,” Romney said.

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He adds: “These are problems that are 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. I just say there is no way, and so, what you do is you move things along the best way you can and hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize this is going to remain an unsolved problem.

Former Gov. John Sununu talks Mitt Romney's remarks saying his comments were "in response to a president who has decided to run a campaign on class warfare."

“The idea of pushing on the Israelis to give something up, to give the Palestinians to act is the worst thing in the world. We have done that time and time again. It does not work. The only answer is to show strength again, American strength, American resolve and the Palestinians someday reach a point where they want peace or that we are trying to force peace on them. That is worth having a discussion. But until then it's just a political thing.”

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Romney has been sharply critical of President Obama's handling of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship -- in particular, President Obama's urging Israel to halt settlement expansion.

American presidents have struggled for decades to broker peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Though the United States has provided Israel with military support and arms, it has traditionally maintained a role of neutrality when it comes to discussing the peace process.

This is not the first time Romney has found himself in the midst of controversy when it comes to Israeli-Palestinian issues.

Back in July, at a fundraiser during his overseas trip, Romney implied Palestinian “culture” was to blame for lower gross-domestic product in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority versus Israel.

“Culture makes all the difference,” Romney said. “Culture makes all the difference.”

The Romney campaign did not immediately respond to an email request for response.

A full transcript of the exchange is below:

QUESTION: You were in Jerusalem.  And we appreciate you being there.  How do you think that the Palestinian problem can be solved? What are you going to do about it?

ROMNEY: “I'm torn by two perspectives in this regard.  One is the one that 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 because the Palestinians have West Bank and have security and have 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 at the 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 the West Bank. Nine miles, okay I came close. Nine miles. The challenge is the other side of the West Bank, the other side of what would be this new Palestinian state would be Syria at one point or Jordan. Of course the Iranians would want to do through the West Bank exactly what they did to Lebanon what they did in Gaza, which is the Iranians would want to bring missile and armament into West bank and potentially threaten Israel. 

So Israel of course would have to say that can't happen; we have got to keep the Iranians from bringing weaponry into the West Bank. Well that means who, the Israelis would patrol the border between Jordan, Syria, and this new Palestinian nation. Well the Palestinians would say no way we are an independent nation, you can't guard our border with other Arab nations. 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, if not who is going to keep it from coming in? Well the Israelis. The Palestinians are going to say well we are not an independent nation if Israel is able to come in and tell us what to land in our airport.

These are problems that are 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. [inaudible] I just say there is no way and so what you do is you move things along the best way you can and hope for some degree of stability but you recognize this is going to remain an unsolved problem.

The idea of pushing on the Israelis to give something up, to give the Palestinians to act is the worst thing in the world we have done that time and time again. It does not work. The only answer is to show strength again, American strength, American resolve and the Palestinians someday reach a point where they want peace or that we are trying to force peace on them. That is worth having a discussion. But until then it's just a political thing.