By: Dr. Aref Assaf
Granted, aspiring politicians often say and promise things just for the votes and the money. In a July 2012 speech in West Jerusalem, I almost wanted to forgive Mitt Romney for having to appease his Jewish donors by implying that Palestinians were inferior to Israelis because of their supposedly backward culture, glossing over the four-plus decades of suffocating military occupation.
Then Mother Jones recently unveiled a private May 2012 video of a Romney speech to donors in Boca Raton, FL, where he forsakes 47 percent of Americans who will vote for President Obama “no matter what” because they are “dependent upon government” and believe “that they are victims.”
But Romney also made some big news with the approach that he articulated to policy toward Israel and the Palestinians: that a Palestinian state is inconceivable and that the Palestinians still want to destroy Israel. Romney told his donors that the pursuit of peace in the Middle East is destined to remain “an unsolved problem” and that “the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish.” “The Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace,” he continued. “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.”
Not only are these statements totally baseless, but only a small segment of Americans would agree with this pessimistic view that seems to condemn the Palestinians and the Jews to permanent warfare with each other. It should be noted that a strong majority of American Jews and Arabs support the two-state solution and believe that both Israelis and Palestinians genuinely desire (and deserve) a lasting peace in the Middle East. Similarly, majorities of both Israelis and Palestinians support a two-state solution. Both the Democratic and Republican parties are mistaken when it comes to the position Jewish Americans take on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A 2007 poll showed that over two-thirds of Jewish-Americans favor a two-state solution. Mr. Romney has been ill-advised on this vital foreign policy matter.
Echoing the rhetoric of his friend, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Romney charged the Palestinians with a lack of interest in making peace, adding that the two-state solution is impractical. Romney broke not only with the Obama administration’s approach but also with the platforms of the major parties and with past Democratic and Republican administrations that have kept the U.S. actively involved in trying to advance the peace process. Romney sadly appears to have caved into his biggest donors. In August, The Daily Beast reported that GOP super-donor Sheldon Adelson had “asked Romney to state publicly that Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are a waste of time because the Palestinians are unwilling to make peace, according to the sources.” Interestingly, the leaked video was taped in the home of Marc Leder, who has given nearly$300,000 to Romney and other Republicans.
Of course, it is no secret that Romney is not courting the Arab and Muslim vote. How stupid could he be? His anti-Muslim dossier is so vast, it would require divine intervention to erase. In key states such as Florida, Romney should know, the Muslim vote will be a decisive swing vote. Romney’s gamble on the Jewish vote will not materialize, either. The majority of Jewish Americans will choose to re-elect President Obama for a second term. Historically, Jewish Americans are an overwhelmingly progressive group, and this political orientation trumps any pro-Israel expectations.
The only ones clapping for Romney are extremist elements in the Republican Party and the extremist settlers in Israel and their American supporters. Their joy will be short lived, I predict. And casino magnet Sheldon Adelson will be proven a lousy gambler.
Dr. Aref Assaf is president of the American Arab Forum, a think tank specializing in Arab and Muslim American affairs.
Related: An abridged transcript of Romney’s speech
can be found here.