Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat blasted Mitt Romney on Sunday for a speech in which the Republican presidential candidate declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel.
“Romney’s declarations are harmful to American interests in our region, and they harm peace, security and stability,” Erekat told AFP.
“Even if this statement is within the US election campaign, it is unacceptable and we completely reject it. The US election campaign should never be at the expense of the Palestinians,” he said, and added, “Romney is rewarding occupation, settlement and extremism in the region with such declarations.”
Romney on Sunday evening affirmed his unwavering commitment to Israel and reiterated his commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons at a much-awaited policy speech in Jerusalem.
“It’s a deeply moving experience to be in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel,” said Romney to a standing ovation.
Addressing about 250 invited guests at the Mishkenot Sha’ananim center, overlooking Jerusalem’s Old City walls and the iconic windmill of Moses Montefiore, Romney quoted former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, saying, “If an enemy of the Jewish people says he seeks to destroy us — believe him. We have seen the horrors of history. We will not stand by. We will not watch them play out again. It would be foolish not to take Iran’s leaders at their word. They are after all the products of a radical theocracy.”
“It is my firm conviction that the security of Israel is in the vital national security interest of the United States,” Romney said to roaring applause. “Ours is an alliance based not only on shared interests but also on enduring shared values. In those shared values, one of the strongest voices is that of your prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.”
“Whenever the security of Israel is most in doubt, the American commitment to Israel must be most secure,” he said to standing ovations.
In his 18-minute speech, Romney also paid tribute to the 11 Israeli athletes who where murdered by Palestinian terrorists 40 years ago at the Olympics in Munich, and to nine Israeli and foreign students who were killed during a terrorist attack at the Hebrew University exactly 10 years ago this week.
It was the only public address he made during his whirlwind Israel visit, which formally concludes Sunday night with a dinner hosted by Prime Minister Netanyahu and his wife Sarah at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem. Romney’s next stop before returning to the US is Poland.
Right before his speech, Romney met with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad early evening Sunday, but he did not request a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, according to Palestinian media.