White House: Romney remarks on peace process showed 'opposite of leadership'

The White House blasted Mitt Romney's comments about the poor prospects for peace in the Middle East after his remarks at a Florida fundraiser became public Tuesday.

In the secretly recorded video, Romney can be heard saying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “is going to remain an unsolved problem” because the Palestinians are “committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel.”

“It is simply the wrong approach to say we can't do anything about it, so we’ll just kick it down the field. That's not leadership. That's the opposite of leadership,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday. 

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He contrasted Romney's statement with what Carney said were President Obama's own views on the subject. 

“The President believes and is committed to the principle that a two-state solution is the right solution for Middle East peace,” Carney said. “That is a basic tenet that has been pursued by Democratic and Republican administrations prior to President Obama. And his two immediate predecessors worked on this issue under the firm belief that a two-state solution was the right solution, and it’s what has guided this president. So I think his view is a little different from what was expressed.”

The peace process since Obama took office has hardly budged, however, and has been marred by disputes with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over settlement construction and whether to use the pre-1967 borders as a blueprint for future Israeli lines. The Palestinians' top envoy to the United States, Maen Rashid Areikat, pronounced himself disappointed with the administration's progress this summer.

“We were hoping that things would be different by now,” Areikat said in a wide-ranging interview with reporters. “We were hoping and expecting to be at a different stage-point today.”

The Romney campaign sought to downplay the remarks, saying they were nothing new.

"Gov. Romney laid 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," spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in an emailed statement. 

"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," Saul added.