Romney says Palestinians have 'no interest' in peace
In a video leaked Monday of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney addressing wealthy donors, Romney said he sees “no way” forward for the Mideast peace process and that 47% of US voters “believe they are victims” entitled to government support.
US Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was faced with a new headache on Tuesday after a video emerged showing him telling wealthy donors that he saw “no way” forward for the Mideast peace process and that almost half of all Americans “believe they are victims” entitled to extensive government support.
Asked at the $50,000-a-plate Florida fundraiser about the Middle East peace process, Romney said that the Palestinians have "no interest whatsoever in establishing peace, and that the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish".
Romney, who has repeatedly criticised Obama for not being a strong enough supporter of Israel, said there was “no way” to make peace with the Palestinians.
"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.
Instead, Romney said, the United States should adopt a wait-and-see attitude, hoping that changes in the future will somehow make peace possible.
"You move things along the best way you can,” he said. “You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognise 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 angered Palestinians in July when he said on a visit to Israel that he recognised Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state.
The leaked video originated from a May 17 fundraiser held at the Boca Raton, Florida, home of Marc Leder, a co-CEO of the investment firm Sun Capital Partners.
Almost half of US voters 'believe they are victims'
The video also showed Romney telling the dinner’s wealthy attendees that he has no way of attracting support from 47% of US voters because they are dependent on the government and pay no taxes, and are therefore not interested in his tax cut proposals.
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,” Romney says in the video, posted online by Mother Jones magazine. “All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims – who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That it's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.”
“These are people who pay no income tax,” Romney continued. He said his job “is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
At a hastily called press conference late Tuesday in Los Angeles, Romney did not apologise for his “off-the-cuff” comments but admitted that they were "not elegantly stated".
“I’m sure I could state it more clearly in a more effective way than I did in a setting like that,” Romney said. “Of course I want to help all Americans.”
On the defensive
The Obama camp leapt at the new chance to declare that Romney was elitist and out of touch with Americans, who will vote in a presidential election on Nov. 6. Obama’s re-election campaign called the video “shocking”.
“It’s hard to serve as president for all Americans when you’ve disdainfully written off half the nation,” campaign manager Jim Messina said in a statement.
Obama hit back at Romney's statements during an interview on the Late Show with David Letterman, aired on CBS. "One of the things I've learned as president is you represent the entire country. My expectation is, that if you want to be president, you gotta work for everybody, not just for some," Obama said.
Romney's remarks in Florida are the latest in a string of controversial comments from the multimillionaire Republican businessman. During the primary campaign, he came under fire for saying he was “not concerned” about the very poor because there were already sufficient government safety nets in place to address their problems.
Trying to appeal to voters at a rally last February in Detroit, the heartland of the US auto industry, Romney said his four cars were all domestically made.
He also said that his wife, Ann, drove “a couple of Cadillacs”.
Romney strategists have been on the defensive over growing criticism that the campaign made a series of missteps at the Republican convention, with Romney’s recent statements on foreign unrest and – most crucially – with his comments on the US economy, which is seen as Obama’s weakest point.
Aides to Obama’s campaign said the latest video would help them continue to make the case that Romney doesn’t understand the concerns of average Americans.
A CBS/New York Times poll released on Friday showed that the US presidential contest remains a tight race, with 49% of likely voters favouring Obama while 46% support Romney.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)