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Romney and Netanyahu of One Mind on Two State Solution

September 18, 2012

Earlier this year, Mitt Romney spoke glowingly of his friend and former Boston Consulting Group colleague, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "We can almost speak in shorthand," Romney told the New York Times, adding, "We share common experiences and have a perspective and underpinning which is similar."
As it turns out, that shared perspective extends to just about every aspect of Middle East policy. For years, Mitt and Bibi have seen eye-to-eye on settlements in the West Bank, charging Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with war crimes, the disinvestment campaign against Tehran and the urgency of U.S. strikes against its nuclear installations. And as newly released video once again confirms, Romney and Netanyahu are of one mind when it comes to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.
As he first suggested earlier this year, Governor Romney has little use for the policy expressed by Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama to realize two states, Israel and Palestine, "living side by side" in peace and security. Instead, Palestinian ambitions for a nation of their own should be determined by Bibi alone. As Romney put it in a January 26 Republican debate:

There are some people who say, should we have a two-state solution? And the Israelis would be happy to have a two-state solution. It's the Palestinians who don't want a two-state solution. They want to eliminate the state of Israel.
And I believe America must say -- and the best way to have peace in the Middle East is not for us to vacillate and to appease, but is to say, we stand with our friend Israel. We are committed to a Jewish state in Israel. We will not have an inch of difference between ourselves and our ally, Israel.

Now in the latest videos from a May 17 fundraiser, Romney told his deep-pocketed donors that a two-state solution is neither possible nor desirable:

I'm torn by two perspectives in this regard. One is the one which 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, let's see the Palestinians have the West Bank, and have security and set up a separate nation for the Palestinians. And then come a couple of thorny questions. [...]
And 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." 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 it 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. We don't go to war to try and resolve it imminently.

That tune, that is, one state of Israel managing "acceptable" levels of violence into the indefinite future, is music to the ears of Benjamin Netanyahu.
Right now, Romney has good reason to believe that "the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish." Benjamin Netanyahu's premiership makes peace in the Middle East virtually impossible. Netanyahu, after all, opposed the 1993 Oslo Accords, which he said were "against my principles and my conscience" and were based upon "an enormous lie." Bibi also fought against the Ehud Barak's proposals to Yassir Arafat during the Clinton administration and refused to support the 2008 offer his predecessor Ehud Olmert made to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Even Netanyahu's much-hyped 2009 Bar-Ilan speech represented little movement forward towards a two-state solution he has long opposed:

Mr. Netanyahu made no mention of existing frameworks for negotiations, like the American-backed 2003 peace plan known as the road map.
He did not address the geographical area a Palestinian state might cover, and he said that the Palestinian refugee problem must be resolved outside Israel's borders, negating the Palestinian demand for a right of return for refugees of the 1948 war and for their millions of descendants.
He insisted that Jerusalem remain united as the Israeli capital. The Palestinians demand the eastern part of the city as a future capital.

As Bibi's late father Benzion described it, "He doesn't support [a Palestinian state]. He supports the sorts of conditions they [the Palestinians] will never accept."
Of course, Mitt Romney is just fine with them.
As the New York Times explained in April, "The ties between Mr. Romney and Mr. Netanyahu stand out because there is little precedent for two politicians of their stature to have such a history together that predates their entry into government." But as Martin Indyk, former U.S. ambassador to Israel in the Clinton administration pointed out, whether intentionally or not, Mitt Romney's statements about his BFF Bibi seem to imply that he would "subcontract Middle East policy to Israel." And, Indyk added, "That, of course, would be inappropriate."
Inappropriate not just for the American pursuit of its national interests, but to the vast majority of Jewish voters here in the United States. While the Romney-Netanyahu "shorthand" for a one-state solution may be well-received by leaders of the settler movement in the West Bank, the American electorate is another matter.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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