GOP candidates agree on Israel

‘Palestinians want to eliminate Israel’

GOP Florida debate sees rare agreement between presidential hopefuls Romney, Gingrich on reasons Israeli-Palestinian peace process is stalling

“My goal for the Palestinian people would be to live in peace, to live in prosperity, to have the dignity of a state, to have freedom, and they can achieve it any morning they are prepared to say: Israel has a right to exist, we give up the right to return, and we recognize that we’re going to live side by side. Now let’s work together to create mutual prosperity. And you could in five years dramatically improve the quality of life of every Palestinian.”

Yitzhak Benhorin, January 27, 2012

WASHINGTON – The Republican Party held yet another stormy presidential debate Thursday, with all four presidential hopefuls vying for the votes of their Florida constitutes.

Banters and political sparring aside, the debate was also the scene of a rare agreement between former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, as both strongly sided with Israel when asked why they believed the Israeli-Palestinian peace process was failing.

Romney blamed President Obama and Gingrich blamed the Palestinians for the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.

“I think he threw Israel under the bus with regards to defining the ’67 borders as a starting point of negotiations,” Romney said.

Asked about the peace process, Romney said: “Well, the reason that there’s not peace between the Palestinians and Israel is because… in the leadership of the Palestinian people are Hamas and others who think like Hamas, who have as their intent the elimination of Israel.” 

“It’s the Palestinians who don’t want a two-state solution,” he continued, “They want to eliminate the state of Israel.

“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.”

Gingrich then surprised the audience: “Governor Romney is exactly right,” he said, adding that in his opinion, the Palestinians were to blame for the prolonged stalemate in the peace process.

“The leadership in Hamas says not a single Jew will remain. Well, you’re not having a peace negotiation, then. This is war by another form,” he said.

“My goal for the Palestinian people would be to live in peace, to live in prosperity, to have the dignity of a state, to have freedom, and they can achieve it any morning they are prepared to say: Israel has a right to exist, we give up the right to return, and we recognize that we’re going to live side by side. Now let’s work together to create mutual prosperity. And you could in five years dramatically improve the quality of life of every Palestinian.

“But the political leadership would never tolerate that,” Gingrich continued, “and that’s why we are in a continuous state of war, where Obama undermines the Israelis.”

The former speaker also defended his controversial statement about the Palestinian people being “invented“: “It was technically an invention of the late 1970s. And it was clearly, it was clearly so. Prior to that they were Arabs. Many of them were either Syrian, Lebanese or Egyptian or Jordanian,” he said.

As for the peace process, Gingrich said: “There were 11 rockets fired into Israel in November. Now, imagine in Duvall County (in Florida) that 11 rockets hit from your neighbor. How many of you would be for a peace process and how many of you would say, you know, that looks like an act of war?” Gingrich asked the audience.

He also reiterated his pledge to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem: “On the first day that I’m president, if I do become president, I will sign an executive order directing the State Department to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to send the signal we’re with Israel,” Gingrich said.

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