WASHINGTON (JTA) — Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich put the blame for the impasse in Middle East peace talks squarely on the Palestinians.
The Republican presidential candidates were responding to a question at the GOP debate Thursday night in Jacksonville, Fla., from an audience member, Abraham Hassan.
“How would a Republican administration help bring peace to Palestine and Israel when most candidates barely recognize the existence of Palestine or its people?” he asked. “As a Palestinian-American Republican, I’m here to tell you we do exist.”
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, cited what he depicted as examples of Palestinian incitement by both Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
"The Israelis would be happy to have a two-state solution," Romney said. "It’s the Palestinians who don’t want a two-state solution, they want to eliminate the State of Israel. And I believe America must say the best way to have peace in the Middle East is not for us to vacillate and appease, but it is to say we stand with our friend Israel."
Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, defended earlier comments in which he described the Palestinians as an "invented people," and added: "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."
The former Georgia congressman repeated a pledge to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem on his first day as president.
CNN, the debate broadcaster, did not give the other candidates, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), an opportunity to respond.