Inevitability

09.18.12

Romney's Vision: A Greater Israel

It won't happen. It's a nice idea, but just impossible to do. That's about how Mitt Romney feels about the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Romney laid out his vision for the Holy Land at a surreptitiously-recorded fundraiser, as reported this morning by Mother Jones. There's just no question anymore about what direction a Romney presidency would take U.S. foreign policy in the Mideast: toward a one-state solution. How else can you interpret this?

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." And so what you do is you say, "You 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... All right, 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. We don't go to war to try and resolve it imminently.

The Palestinian monolith will never accept Israel, Romney's saying. And so you move it along—nothing to see here, folks—until maybe, perhaps, if the stars align, a Palestinian state spontaneously happens. That's it. And it's a recipe for one state.

In fairness to Romney, on the tape he literally offers an "on the other hand": a single Secretary of State (a male) told him a two-state solution might be possible. "And I didn't delve into it," Romney says. Clearly, dispatching an adviser to make sure a two-state solution was in the Republican Party platform was just about optics.

Romney's outline of his concerns about a peace deal—"thorny issues," if you will—brings no more comfort. They are: that Israel won't be able to forever retain full control over Palestinian air space; that Israel's waist, at its thinnest point, will be only 7 miles wide (it's actually 9 miles); and that on the other side of Palestine will be Syria and Jordan.

These objections are not obstacles to peace, as Romney suggests, but rather functions of a two-state solution—except for Syria and Jordan bordering the West Bank, which are functions of reality. No sovereign country would cede control of its air space. As for Israel's thin waist, Martin van Creveld, who has more strategic chops than Romney in his little finger, convincingly argues that "strategic depth," as permanent occupation is known to Israeli rightists, is a canard: "Israel can easily afford to give up the West Bank" with "negligible" risk. Keeping the territories is what poses the risk—permanently subjugating millions of Palestinians and denying them citizenship political rights is untenable—and it's a fate Romney seems contentedly resigned to.

In another Mother Jones video, Romney brags about his political consultants: "I mean, they work for Bibi Netanyahu in his race." If that's the case, Romney shouldn't be bragging; he should probably be getting his money back. Any political adviser who'd worked with Netanyahu should have known to tell their candidate, "Always assume there's a camera on you." What other lessons could the consultants have taken away from the embarrassing slip that "America is a thing you can move very easily"? Then again, maybe they're just really good consultants for Netanyahu.