Question 3: In 2011, the Palestinians moved unilaterally to seek UN recognition of statehood, affirming their reluctance to negotiate directly with Israel. How should the U.S. engage with the Palestinians regarding their UN initiatives for recognition, and the stalled peace process? What should U.S. policy be regarding rapprochement between Hamas and Fatah?
Response from President Obama
Last year, I stood before the United Nations General Assembly to address the Palestinian bid for U.N. recognition of statehood. I believe now, as I did then, that the Palestinian people deserve a state of their own. However, I continue to believe that lasting peace will only come from direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians themselves and not from unilateral Palestinian actions at the United Nations. That is why I made it clear that there can be no short-cuts to peace, and called on the world to recognize the legitimacy of Israel and its security concerns as a Jewish, democratic state.
We cannot impose peace or any final status details on the Israelis and Palestinians. Ultimately, it is up to the two parties to take action. Final status issues can only be resolved by the Israelis and Palestinians themselves. What we can do is state frankly what is widely known: that a lasting peace will involve two sovereign, independent states. And I am convinced that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians would rather look to the future than be trapped in the past. However, my Administration has made it clear that Israelis cannot be expected to negotiate with a partner that refuses to recognize its right to exist. That's why it's imperative that Hamas abides by the Quartet conditions to renounce violence, recognize Israel's right to exist, and abide by past agreements.
Response from Governor Mitt Romney
As president, I will reject any measure that would frustrate direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. We will make clear to the Palestinians that the unilateral attempt to decide issues that are designated for final negotiations by the Oslo Accords is unacceptable, and will leave no doubt the U.S. will react firmly if the General Assembly recognizes a Palestinian state. If such a resolution were to be passed, the U.S. would reconsider American support for UN programs, and re-evaluate its relations with any state that votes in favor of recognition. We would also reduce assistance to the Palestinians if they continue to pursue United Nations recognition or form a united government that includes Hamas, a terrorist group dedicated to Israel's destruction.
Unlike President Obama, I understand that distancing the U.S. from Israel doesn't earn us credibility in the Arab world or bring peace closer. Instead, it encourages Palestinians to hold out and wait for Washington to deliver more Israeli concessions. I will never unilaterally create preconditions for peace talks, as President Obama has done.
Moreover, I do not believe that we should be issuing public warnings that create distance between the United States and Israel. Israel does not need public lectures about how to weigh decisions of war and peace. It needs our support.
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