WASHINGTON – Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) told reporters Tuesday that he “doesn’t know what the alternative is other than a two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In a joint briefing with Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), following their visit to the Middle East as members of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Romney added: “No one articulated to us anywhere in the region an idea or a proposal for something other than a two-state solution.”
During their time in the Middle East, they visited Jordan, Iraq, Israel, and the West Bank where they met with Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh.
“They (Palestinians) described what would occur if there were not a two-state solution and that would be an Israel for one state and Israel where you have 6.6 million Palestinians and 6.6 million Jews and the Palestinians have larger families than the Jews,” the 2012 Republican presidential nominee continued. “Over time, it would become predominantly Palestinian, that did not seem to be something which the Israelis were looking forward, something which the Palestinian felt was unlikely to be the outcome that would be satisfying to the Israeli government.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was on a private vacation when the two Senators visited Israel, and they left Israel without a face-to-face meeting. When asked if he feels Netanyahu snubbed him, Romney responded: “Both of us spoke with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, Bibi. He was on vacation at the Golan Heights, we were certainly able to go to the Golan Heights and visit with him on vacation but chose not to do so. Instead, we chose to speak with him individually.”
He added that the two also spoke with the political director of the Foreign Ministry of Israel about the peace process. “In my case,” Romney added, “I’ve known Prime Minister Netanyahu for many, many years. We had our first job after business school together at the Boston consulting group. At that time, he was Ben Netay because most Americans do not pronounce ‘Netanyahu.’ I’ve known him a long, long time. I’ve had dinner at his residence in Jerusalem. If I were on vacation after an election like he went through, I would not be looking to fly back to Jerusalem to meet with a couple of senators, two out of a hundred.”
Senator Murphy agreed: “We knew when that we were going there when the government was in formation. But for our schedule, it was the only time we could get there.”
“It felt to me like a very odd time in the region where there is a growing worry about the future of the two-state solution without a very clear sense as to what that alternative is,” Senator Murphy said. “There is worrying in the region that it’s slipping away.”
He explained that as time goes on, “there’s increasing lack of material progress towards a two-state solution; as Gaza continues to fall into disarray and Hamas shows no signs of moving; my sense is that both in the Israeli and the Palestinian side, there’s increasing worry that the two-state solution is slipping away. And yet, I don’t know that anybody has a better answer because if you’re not invested in the future Palestinian state, then you are more likely endorsing the permanent second class treatment of Palestinians inside Israel.”
Asked by the Jerusalem Post if following his conversations with the Palestinian Prime Minister he thinks that the Palestinians would reject the plan immediately without considering it, Senator Murphy said: “We don’t know. Everybody’s guessing what’s in the plan. So I think it’d be silly for me to try to guess what parties are going to do on a plan that nobody’s seen.”
Senator Romney added: “I think there’s a great deal of hope for the framework, which will come from the administration.” He smiled when he told reporters that only during his visit in the region he discovered that the peace plan is also referred to as the “deal of the century.”
“We had a number of people saying to us, ‘we’re concerned about the deal of the century.’ And we had to interrupt them and say, ‘what do you mean the deal of the century?’ And they said, ‘well, that’s what has been referred to locally as the framework coming from the United States, the deal of the century.’ So there are high expectations that something substantial will come out. But at the same time a sense that this is not going to be satisfactory to the Palestinian people. But no one quite knows what the frameworks can look like.”
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