09/19/2012 08:56 pm ET

Romney Campaign Pushes Back On Israel, Palestine Comments From Fundraiser Video

WASHINGTON -- The Romney campaign sought to defend Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Wednesday over his controversial comments that a peaceful resolution between Israel and Palestine is not feasible. But in doing so, they inaccurately claimed that the now infamous video from a private fundraiser in May had been "debunked."

In the video from Romney's fundraiser, which has captured national attention largely due to his remarks about the "47 percent," the former Massachusetts governor declares that Palestinians "have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace." He goes on to argue that a two-state solution is "almost unthinkable to accomplish."

"We have a potentially volatile situation but we sort of live with it, and we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it," Romney said.

Romney's remarks, appearing to simultaneously dismiss the peace process and place the blame on the Palestinian people, quickly sparked outrage among negotiators in the process and Muslims alike. The comments were also seized upon by President Barack Obama's reelection campaign to question Romney's handle on foreign policy.

The Romney campaign retaliated by accusing the Obama campaign of leveling "false attacks against Mitt Romney based on a debunked and selectively edited video," citing an article by Politico's Dylan Byers published Wednesday morning. In it, Byers argued that the initial clip on the Middle East was misleading, because in the complete video of Romney's remarks, he doesn't entirely rule out peace as a possibility, stating:

But I always keep open: the idea of pushing on the Israelis to give something up to get the Palestinians to act is the worst idea in the world. We have done that time and time and time again. It does not work. So the only answer is show them strength. American strength, American resolve, and the Palestinians will some day reach the point where they want peace more than we’re trying to force peace on them. Then it’s worth having the discussion. So until then, it’s just wistful thinking.

But the Romney campaign's memo was problematic on two accounts: It was interpreted as labeling the entire video -- including Romney's much more discussed 47 percent comments -- as "debunked," even though Romney has stood by his statements all week. It also implied that Byers had done some sort of fact-check on the criticism directed at Romney and rendered it false, when Romney's full quote neither changes his comments about Palestinians nor does it "debunk" the fact that he seemed to suggest he wouldn't press for a two-state solution.

Ryan Williams, a spokesman for the Romney campaign, clarified the confusion over their use of "debunked," telling Politico that they "only take issue with the clip addressing the Mideast peace negotiations, not with the entire video of Romney's remarks at the fundraiser."

When The Huffington Post asked if Romney stands by his statement that Palestinians do not wish to pursue peace, Williams responded that those comments were made in reference to the extremist factions in Palestine.

"Governor Romney makes clear as he has in the past that peace is not possible if the extremist elements on the Palestinian side refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist," Williams said in an email. "Currently the Palestinian government is discussing a unity pact with Hamas. Should that agreement be reached, it would cast great doubt on the prospects of the peace process. But as Mitt Romney indicated he is committed to a two state solution, and will not throw up any barriers to both sides negotiating that solution. This is clear in his complete, unedited answer."

But in the full clip, Romney does not draw that same distinction -- he only speaks about "the Palestinians" in broader terms.

Vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan also came to Romney's defense, telling Boston-based New England Cable News Tuesday evening that the comments were "a statement of the status quo."

"Part of the Palestinian government is Hamas, which is a group that is dedicated toward wiping Israel off the map," Ryan said. "They do not recognize Israel's right to exist. Pretty hard to get to a two-state solution when part of the Palestinian coalition is Hamas, which does not acknowledge Israel's right to exist. So all he's doing is simply acknowledging the problem with the status quo."

Ryan also said that he and Romney "clearly want peace in the Middle East" and reaffirmed their belief in a two-state solution.



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