Leaked Romney Video: Peace in Israel ‘Almost Unthinkable’

By CNN Political Unit

(CNN) — A clip of Mitt Romney speaking at a private fund-raiser in May shows the GOP presidential candidate questioning the prospect of ever reaching peace between Israelis and Palestinians, calling a path to a solution in the region “almost unthinkable to accomplish.”

The clip, one of a series of videotaped remarks that were posted on the website of the left-leaning magazine Mother Jones, shows Romney speaking in more pessimistic tones about peace in the region than he generally does in public. The clip shows only Romney speaking, and does not include any questions that may have prompted his remarks.

“I’m torn by two perspectives in this regard,” Romney is shown saying. “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.”

Romney goes on to describe the obstacles he sees toward developing a so-called “two state solution” that would establish an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. He cites problems of geography, including the proximity to Tel Aviv of a potential border between the two states, as preventing any real progression toward the two states.

“These are problems-these are very hard to solve, all right?” Romney says on the tape. “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.’”

His role as president, Romney says, would be to “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,” he concludes. “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.”

Andrea Saul, Romney’s campaign spokeswoman, said the tape showed Romney laying out “a detailed description of the many difficult issues that must be solved in order to reach a two-state solution.”

“And as he’s often said, there is this one obvious truth: peace will not be possible if the extreme elements of the Palestinian side refuse to come to the table for talks or to recognize Israel’s right to exist,” Saul said. “A possible unity government between Hamas–a terrorist organization–in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank would squelch the prospect for peace. Gov. Romney believes that the path to a two-state solution is to ensure the security of Israel and not to throw up any more barriers to the two sides engaging in direct negotiations.”

In public, Romney has declared support for the two-state solution, including in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in July.

“The decision as to where the borders would be, as we move to a two-state solution, which I support, that’s a decision on borders that will be worked out by Israelis and the Palestinians,” Romney told Blitzer in the interview, which was taped as the candidate was visiting Jerusalem as part of a three-country foreign swing. “I hope that’s a process which is ongoing and ultimately successful. But as to the exact location of borders, that is something I will leave that to the negotiating parties themselves.”

At a CNN-sponsored debate in Florida in January, however, Romney used terms similar to those used at the fund-raiser to address the notion of a two-state solution.

“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,” Romney said. The debate was held in the heat of the GOP primaries.

Romney continued: “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.’”

Romney has consistently criticized President Barack Obama for his dealings with Israel, saying the president hasn’t been a staunch-enough ally to the Jewish state in opposing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Taking a strong pro-Israel approach is a strategy the Romney campaign hopes will galvanize Jewish voters in the United States, as well as pro-Israel evangelicals who Romney struggled to court during the GOP primaries.

The tapes revealed Tuesday are the latest in a cache of material given to Mother Jones showing Romney speaking candidly to supporters at a fund-raiser. Appearing on MSNBC late Monday night, the author of the Mother Jones article, David Corn, said the event took place May 17 in Boca Raton, Florida, at the home of Sun Capital executive Marc Leder.

The person responsible for the footage said he or she wishes to remain anonymous for “professional reasons and to avoid a lawsuit,” according to the Huffington Post, which also published the tapes. Furthermore, the video was altered dramatically — but retains the audio from the event — to mask the location and date of the fund-raiser with high-dollar donors.

Late Monday, Romney explained controversial statements from tapes released earlier were “off the cuff” and “not elegantly stated,” but defended the main message of his remarks.

In the footage Romney argued nearly half of Americans will vote for President Barack Obama because they rely on government support, made apparent jokes about wishing he had Latino heritage, and talks about a Chinese factory his former firm purchased.

– CNN’s Jim Acosta, Kevin Liptak and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.