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“There are problems between Jews and Muslims and this Mormon throws a Hail Mary?” said Ackerman, who is retiring this year and has excoriated all sides – the U.S., Israel and the Palestinians – for not seizing opportunities for peace.
In a series of interviews with media outlets, Dennis Ross, the former Middle East adviser to President Obama and the administration’s most frequent interlocutor with Israel, seemed to suggest that Romney’s remarks were not helpful.
“I’m a big believer in not creating a false set of expectations, but I’m also a believer in that if you think something is stuck, you come up with an approach and try to change the dynamic,” Ross, counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told The Huffington Post. “If you basically just say it’s all hopeless, you just make hopelessness a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
But a fellow veteran U.S. Middle East negotiator, Aaron David Miller, struck a more sympathetic chord.
“To me, the idea that an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement may not be possible is simply an acknowledgement of reality,” Miller, a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, told The Huffington Post. “In my view, the emperor has been seen to have no clothes on this issue for quite a number of years.”
Miller said that he thought Romney, if elected, would tend toward the low end in the spectrum of U.S. engagement with the issue, “what I would call benign neglect” – but that “even Romney would have to find some way of management.”
While centrist Jewish groups have not issued statements in response to Romney’s remarks, groups on the left and right were not so reticent. Americans for Peace Now and J Street, which have pushed for aggressive U.S. action to advance a two-state solution, were strongly critical of Romney’s remarks.
“In dismissing the possibility of achieving peace and expressing readiness to simply sit back and wait for the conflict to resolve itself, Romney has articulated a view that is fundamentally anti-Israel,” APN’s president, Debra DeLee, said in a statement. “‘Pro-Israel’ means being committed to the achievement of peace for Israel, no matter how difficult it may be to achieve or how distant a solution may appear.”
She called on him to “repudiate” his remarks.
But the Zionist Organization of America said that it agreed with Romney’s premise.
“Governor Romney’s remarks indicate that, were he to be elected president, he might be willing to do what President Obama and his predecessors, Republican and Democratic, have not done – to act on the realities of the Palestinian situation and apply real, sustained pressure on the Palestinian Authority to change its ways,” the ZOA’s national president, Morton Klein, said in a statement.