09/23/2012 10:34 am ET Updated Sep 23, 2012

Bill Clinton: America Cannot Let Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Fester (VIDEO)

Comparing the Israeli-Palestinian standoff in the Middle East to an "abscessed tooth," former President Bill Clinton told CNN's Fareed Zakaria on Sunday that the United States must play an aggressive role in reaching a breakthrough.

"With all foreign policy conflicts, I like to say you've got to decide whether a foreign policy problem is a scab on your knee after you fall down or an abscessed tooth," Clinton said. "With the scab, you want to let it alone. It will cure itself if you will just let it alone. Time passing is good. With an abscessed tooth, all you're going to do is become sick and more infected if you don't deal with it."

The standoff between Israelis and Palestinians, Clinton continued, is the latter: both populations keep growing, and with time their citizens seems to be moving further and further toward hardline positions.

Clinton's remarks come after Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was caught on a secretly recorded video telling donors back in May that the situation in the region was virtually impossible to resolve, the Palestinians have "no interest whatsoever in establishing peace," and the most an American president could do was "kick the ball down the field" and hope for the best.

Asked if this was an accurate description of the situation, Clinton replied, "No. It is accurate that the United States cannot make peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. They have to do that. What we need to do is maximize the attractiveness of doing it and minimize the risks of doing it -- we can do that."

He added, "I think kicking the can down the road is an error."