Today it was revealed that in a video filmed at a fundraiser in May, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney once again made disparaging remarks about Palestinians and their desire for peace. In the video, Romney said that Palestinians "have no interest whatsoever" in peace, and suggested that if elected president he would maintain the status quo in the Middle East and "kick the ball down the field." Romney, who has received millions of dollars in campaign contributions from American businessman and hardline supporter of the Israeli right-wing, Sheldon Adelson, made similar remarks during the Republican primaries earlier this year. For journalists covering this story, the IMEU offers the following fact check on Romney's claims. ROMNEY'S CLAIM: "Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace." THE FACTS:
- For more than 64 years, Israel has been dispossessing Palestinians and expelling them from their land and homes in order to create and maintain a Jewish majority in the land of historic Palestine. This is the root cause of the entire conflict.
- This process of colonization and dispossession has never stopped or paused, even during the seven-year period that Israelis and Palestinians were negotiating the Oslo Accords, during which time Israel more than doubled the number of Jewish settlers living illegally on occupied Palestinian land. Today, there are more than 500,000 Israelis living in Jewish-only settlements built on Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, all but precluding the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.
- In April 2012, the former head of Israel's internal security agency (Shin Bet), Yuval Diskin, blamed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, not the Palestinians, for the freeze in the peace process. According to Haaretz newspaper:
"Forget the stories they tell you about how Abbas is not interested in negotiation," said Diskin, adding, "We are not talking to the Palestinians because this government has no interest in negotiations." The former Shin Bet chief added, "I was there up to a year ago and I know from up-close what is happening. This government is not interested in solving anything with the Palestinians, and I say this [with] certainty." Diskin pointed the finger at Netanyahu. "This prime minister knows that if he makes the slightest move forward, then his well-established rule and his coalition will fall apart."'
- In May 2012, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert echoed Diskin's comments, accusing Netanyahu of being insincere in his stated desire to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians, stating: "The fact is that we don't negotiate with the Palestinians, and the fact is that we have not proposed anything." When asked if he thought that Netanyahu would make a genuine effort to make peace with the Palestinians, Olmert replied, "I doubt he will."
- Also in May 2012, a leaked report revealed that officials in the British Foreign Office blamed Netanyahu for the breakdown of peace talks. The report stated: "Netanyahu has a history of using the incitement issue as a delaying tactic in peace talks." The report added: "Authoritative studies agree that Palestinian Authority textbooks are not inciting hatred of Israel."
- In November 2011, French President Nicholas Sarkozy was caught on a microphone complaining to President Obama that Netanyahu was a "liar, " stating: "I cannot stand him. He's a liar." Seeming to agree, Obama replied, "You're fed up with him? I have to deal with him every day."
- In February 2011, German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her frustration with Netanyahu in a phone conversation, complaining, "You haven't made a single step to advance peace."
- In July 2010, a video surfaced showing Netanyahu speaking to a group of settlers in 2001 when he was in the opposition, bragging that he had sabotaged the Oslo peace process during his first term as prime minister (1996-1999) and claiming, "America is a thing you can move very easily."
ROMNEY'S CLAIM: Palestinians are "committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel." THE FACTS:
- In 1988, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) recognized the state of Israel. This was considered a major and historic compromise on the part of the Palestinians, who effectively renounced their claim to 78% of historic Palestine. (See map here.) Israel has never recognized the magnitude of this compromise, or responded in kind. In 1993, the PLO and the government of Israel exchanged official letters in which the Palestinians formally recognized "the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security." In return, Israel only acknowledged the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
- For almost 20 years, since the start of the Oslo process in 1993, Palestinian leaders have attempted to negotiate a comprehensive peace agreement with Israel leading to the creation of an independent Palestinian state in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, living "side by side" in peace with Israel. However, because of Israel's refusal to end expansion of Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, many observers now believe that the two-state solution is all but dead. (Click here for 2012 UN map showing land allocated to settlements in the West Bank.)
- Although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he accepted the necessity of a Palestinian state in a speech at Bar-Ilan University in June 2009, he attached so many caveats (including that it be demilitarized, that Israel maintain control over its borders and airspace, and a continued Israeli military presence in the Jordan valley) as to render his statement meaningless.
- The current Israeli coalition government is the most right-wing, rejectionist government in Israel's history. Many of the parties that are part of the coalition are staunchly opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state, including Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beiteinu party. In September 2010, Lieberman declared that peace with Palestinians was not possible, "not next year and not for the next generation."