When Mother Jones released the secret fundraiser video of Mitt Romney doing his best Thurston Howell III impression (yes that links to a David Brooks op-ed) they promised more to come. Today’s video concerns the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and while Romney will sadly not suffer politically for denigrating the inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza, his remarks will probably make it impossible to govern in that part of the world, on the remote chance that he gets elected President.
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, well, let’s let 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… The other side of the West Bank, the other side of what would be this new Palestinian state would either be Syria at one point, or Jordan. And of course the Iranians would want to do through the West Bank exactly what they did through Lebanon, what they did near Gaza. Which is that the Iranians would want to bring missiles and armament into the West Bank and potentially threaten Israel. So Israel of course would have to say, “That can’t happen. We’ve got to keep the Iranians from bringing weaponry into the West Bank.” Well, that means that—who? The Israelis are going to patrol the border between Jordan, Syria, and this new Palestinian nation? Well, the Palestinians would say, “Uh, no way! We’re an independent country. You can’t, you know, guard our border with other Arab nations.” And now how about the airport? How about flying into this Palestinian nation? Are we gonna allow military aircraft to come in and weaponry to come in? And if not, who’s going to keep it from coming in? Well, the Israelis. Well, the Palestinians are gonna say, “We’re not an independent nation if Israel is able to come in and tell us what can land in our airport.” These are problems—these are very hard to solve, all right?
First of all, stating that the Palestinians have no interest in peace off the top pretty much seals the deal. This views all Palestinian factions as essentially equal to Hamas, and dooms any effort to even restart a negotiating process. And the Palestinians will surely take note of that. But the rest of this reads like a spy novel. It assumes this Iranian menace would want to set up missiles inside the West Bank. That would be the Shiite Iranians setting up shop among the Sunni Palestinians. And Romney just can’t get around the fact that the Palestinians would not allow themselves to be re-occupied by Israel in the event of a two-state solution. This is a problem that’s “hard to solve.” I would imagine so! Usually sovereign states don’t allow occupying forces to inspect their borders for them.
But after the above clip, Romney simply throws up his hands and says “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 likens it to China and Taiwan, even though Taiwan is actually recognized as an independent state. My favorite part is this:
On the other hand, I got a call from a former secretary of state. I won’t mention which one it was, but this individual said to me, you know, I think there’s a prospect for a settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis after the Palestinian elections. I said, “Really?” And, you know, his answer was, “Yes, I think there’s some prospect.” And I didn’t delve into it.
Why delve into anything that would challenge your assumptions? Incidentally, this prospect for peace animates the Republican Party platform on the subject, which strongly endorses a two-state solution, not that anyone’s looking.
I think that, much like the 47% remarks, this is a broadly held view among conservatives that was just amplified a bit more in these remarks. It probably won’t merit a hastily arranged news conference to both justify and back up the comments. There’s probably more explanation needed for the fact that the fundraiser was held at the former site of a sex party rather than these Israeli-Palestinian comments.
But in a Romney Presidency, the Palestinians, recognizing that there’s no chance for peace, would almost certainly move to a war footing. They wouldn’t have a choice. Netanyahu would welcome that right now, and we may see that anyway. But this would significantly complicate the situation.