Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat on Tuesday referred to as "absolutely unacceptable," comments by US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney that the Palestinians are 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," Erekat told Reuters. "Only those who want to maintain the Israeli occupation will claim the Palestinians are not interested in peace."
In a video published Tuesday by US magazine Mother Jones, Romney questioned the feasibility of the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank.
"I'm torn by two perspectives in this regard," Romney said at a $50,000-per-plate fundraising dinner on May 17. "One is the one which I've had for some time, which is that the Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace, and that the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish."
Romney then launched into a hypothetical scenario in which Israelis allow the Palestinians to establish a state in the West Bank but are then forced to contend with unsolvable security and border issues.
It is "maybe seven miles from Tel Aviv to what would be the West Bank," he said, repeating an oft-cited Israeli security concern alleging that an opposing Arab army in the West Bank could cut Israel in half horizontally in a matter of minutes. "And now how about the airport?" he asked.
Romney said that the Palestinians would demand full control over its own borders, and suggested they could open access to military armaments. "And of course the Iranians would want to do through the West Bank exactly what they did through Lebanon, what they did near Gaza. Which is that the Iranians would want to bring missiles and armament into the West Bank and potentially threaten Israel."
Concluding that the Palestinians remain "committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel," the US presidential candidate endorsed a strategy of maintaining the status quo. "You move things along the best way you can," he said. "You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that this is going to remain an unsolved problem."
White House spokesman Jay Carney rejected Romney's comments on the peace process on Tuesday, saying, “It is simply the wrong approach to say we can’t do anything about it so we’ll just kick it down the field; that’s not leadership.”
Carney added that peace is in the best interests of Israelis and Palestinians, and that US President Barack Obama “will continue to pursue it.”
Bloomberg contributed to this report.