Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told donors on Monday that Palestinians "have no interest" in peace with Israel and suggested that efforts at Middle East peace under his administration would languish, according to comments captured on a newly released video of his private remarks to wealthy donors.
Romney said Palestinians are "committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel" and that the prospects for a two-state solution to Middle East peace were dim.
"You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that this is going to remain an unsolved problem, and we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it," Romney said.
The video clip was posted Tuesday morning on the website of Mother Jones magazine. The magazine said it is from a $50,000-a-plate fundraiser in Boca Raton, Florida, on May 17.
The video is from the same event as a clip released Monday in which Romney says almost half of Americans "believe that they are victims" and are dependent on the government.
Late Monday, Romney did not dispute that clip but said his remarks were "not elegantly stated." The Romney campaign has not disputed the authenticity of the video released Monday.
Democrats leaped at the chance to criticize Romney for the comments and launched a new ad and fundraising campaign focused on them.
In the West Bank, Palestinians said Romney was wrong to accuse them of not seeking peace.
"No one stands to gain more from peace with Israel than Palestinians and no one stands to lose more in the absence of peace than Palestinians," chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Reuters. "Only those who want to maintain the Israeli occupation will claim the Palestinians are not interested in peace."
Romney's statements in the latest video clip put him in sync with hard-liners in the Israeli government, including people close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and senior cabinet ministers.
Palestinian lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi accused Romney of "destroying the chances for peace" and called his remarks "irresponsible and dangerous and both ignorant and prejudiced."
Netanyahu's office declined to comment.
Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said: "We are ready for peace that is based on the 1967 borders, a two-state solution and stopping settlement activities. Thus, it is not true that we are not ready for peace, but rather, it is the Israeli side that is not ready for peace.
"We think that these statements are part of the election campaign, but unfortunately, it will not help the peace process, but rather, will strengthen the voices of extremism and the voices of those who refuse to reach a two-state solution," Rudaineh said.
In the clip, Romney is asked about the "Palestinian problem." He gives a detailed, though somewhat rambling, response and says, "the Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace," and "the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish."
The magazine's website quotes Romney as saying he was against applying any pressure on Israel to give up disputed territory for a two-state solution with the Palestinians.
"The idea of pushing on the Israelis to give something up to get the Palestinians to act is the worst idea in the world," Romney said, according to the magazine. Mother Jones did not provide video of that comment.
Romney also criticized President Barack Obama's foreign policy approach as "naive."
"The president's foreign policy, in my opinion, is formed in part by a perception he has that his magnetism, and his charm, and his persuasiveness is so compelling that he can sit down with people like (Vladimir) Putin and (Hugo) Chávez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and that they'll find that we're such wonderful people that they'll go on with us, and they'll stop doing bad things," Romney says. "And it's an extraordinarily naive perception."