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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript


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BLITZER: Governor Romney, thanks so much for joining us in Jerusalem. What a beautiful city. And I'm sure you have been moved by what you have seen so far.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it's a holy city, a city of a great and courageous people.

My wife and I first came here in 1995 and have been here four times now. We're moved and inspired by what we see here.

BLITZER: Do you consider Jerusalem -- and we're sitting in the King David Hotel here in Jerusalem -- do you consider Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel?

ROMNEY: Yes, of course. A nation has the capacity to choose its own capital city. And Jerusalem is Israel's capital. BLITZER: If you become president of the United States, would you move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?

ROMNEY: I think it's long been the policy of our country to ultimately have our embassy in the nation's capital of Jerusalem.

The decision to actually make the move is one, if I were president, I would want to take in consultation with the leadership of the government which exists at that time. So I would follow the same policy we have in the past. Our embassy would be in the capital. But that's -- the timing of that is something I would want to work out with the government.

BLITZER: With the government of Israel?

ROMNEY: With the government of Israel.

BLITZER: But every Israeli government has always asked every U.S. government to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

ROMNEY: Well, that would make the decision easy, but I would still want to have the communication with the governmental leaders.


BLITZER: Just to be precise, if you are president, you would consult with the Israeli government, and if they said, please move the embassy, you would do that?

ROMNEY: I'm not going to make foreign policy for my nation, particularly while I'm on foreign soil.

My understanding is the policy of our nation has been a desire to move our embassy ultimately to the capital. That's something which I would agree with. But I would only want to do so and to select the timing in accordance with the government of Israel.

BLITZER: Because you know that every U.S. president since '67, since the Six-Day War in 1967 -- behind you is the Old City of Jerusalem. You see the beautiful walls there, and we're not far away.

But the pre-'67 line was in front of those old walls. But since then, every president from Nixon to LBJ, to Carter, Ronald Reagan, the Bushes, President Clinton, now Obama, considers East Jerusalem, including the Old City behind you, to be occupied territory, not part of Israel. Would you change that?

ROMNEY: I'm not going to talk about the borders.

The decision as to where the borders would be as we move to a two- state solution, which I support, that's a decision on borders that will be worked out by Israelis and the Palestinians.

I hope that's a process which is ongoing and ultimately successful. But as to the exact location of borders, that is something I will leave that to the negotiating parties themselves.

BLITZER: You just visited the Western Wall, one of the holiest sites in Judaism in the Old City of Jerusalem. I'm sure it was a moving experience for you. We saw the pictures, the video. Do you consider that to be part of Israel?

ROMNEY: It is certainly part of Israel.

The decision, however, as we move to a two-state solution, as to what would be part of Israel and what would be part of a Palestinian state is something to be negotiated by the Palestinians and the Israelis. I believe that the key to that negotiation is the recognition that there will be a Palestinian state and there will be a Jewish state.

BLITZER: And so you support a two-state solution. Do you support a two-state solution, an Israeli state and a Palestinian state basically along the lines, the pre-'67 lines with what are called mutually agreed swaps, mutually agreed by the Israelis and the Palestinians?

ROMNEY: I support a two-state solution as the appropriate direction for the solution of the hostility, if you will, that exists between peoples here.

But I also recognize that the borders will have to be negotiated by the respective parties. And the original '67 borders will -- will -- by themselves are not defensible -- indefensible -- from the standpoint of Israel, and, therefore, there will be have to be adjustments from those precise borders to reach a solution that is satisfactory to both parties.

BLITZER: So, basically, the negotiations shouldn't assume that it would be based on the pre-'67 lines with mutually agreed swaps; you say go in and start negotiating?

ROMNEY: I'm not being that specific.

I'm saying that there will be borders that have to be negotiated, and what the starting point is, is something which will be decided by the parties involved. What the ending point is will be decided by the parties involved.

BLITZER: Could you see the future Palestinian state -- and you support a two-state solution, Palestine and Israel -- having East Jerusalem as its capital?

ROMNEY: I don't want to, again, negotiate for the parties. My view is that the right course for America is to stand by our ally, Israel, to support them in their negotiating posture.

I recognize that, as negotiations begin, the postures of the respective parties will be different than the ultimate solution.

But I'm not going to give up Israeli bargaining positions from the beginning, nor demand the Palestinians a certain outcome.

My view is that the United States' role is to stand by our ally to show not a dime's worth of distance diplomatically between us and Israel, to work to bring the parties together and to see progress, but not to weaken the prospects of progress and of an agreement at some point by virtue of placing an American position on the table that might be different than that of our ally.

BLITZER: Would you ask Israel to freeze settlement activity on the West Bank?

ROMNEY: I believe that the issue of settlements is something which should be discussed in private by the American president and our allies.

Again, when we show a diplomatic distance between ourselves and our ally, I think we encourage people who oppose that relationship to seek other means to achieve their ends.

I think the best thing we can do is to communicate very clearly to the Palestinians, as well as to our friends the Israelis, that the way to peace is for them to meet and to resolve their differences, rather than to look to us to resolve that distance -- that difference or to look to the United Nations to do it.

So I just don't think my role, particularly as a candidate, is to -- is to begin suggesting what the terms of an agreement might look like.

BLITZER: Let's talk about Iran, because you've been very robust in saying that you will not, as president, accept Iran with nuclear weapons. So be specific. What would you do to make sure that would never happen?

ROMNEY: Well, I spoke about five years ago at the Herzliya Conference and laid out seven steps that I thought were necessary to keep Iran from pursuing their nuclear folly.

One of those steps, of course, was crippling sanctions. And it's taken a long time for those sanctions to finally be put in place. They could be, I'm sure, even more punitive relative to Iran. But that's a positive step.

There are other steps that have not yet been followed. One other step, of course, is to make sure that we have credible military options that are available to us if no other of the initiatives is successful.

Clearly, we all hope that diplomatic and economic pressure put on Iran will dissuade them from becoming a nuclear capability nation. But if all else fails, we, of course, have to keep a military option available.

BLITZER: But there are extensive contingency plans in place at the Pentagon and elsewhere in the U.S. government for that military option already. I don't know if you've been briefed on all that kind of stuff, but they do have plans to do that if the President of the United States were to give that order.

ROMNEY: My guess is that neither you nor I have the full access to all of the plans that might exist for military options, either on the part of the United States or, for that matter, with our friends in Israel.

But I certainly hope that our military, under the direction of the president, has, in fact, prepared a whole series of contingency plans, not only to previous Iran from becoming nuclear but to respond were Iran to become more belligerent in its -- in its efforts.

So I can't speak for the military, having not seen -- haven't seen their plans at this point.

BLITZER: At some point, you will be briefed by U.S. intelligence, right, during -- isn't that after the convention?

ROMNEY: After the convention, I'll get a more --


BLITZER: Then they start giving you...


ROMNEY: I'll get a more full briefing on classified material, yes.


And I assume, at that point, you'll hear what the -- I've been told that there are -- I don't know if they are, but there are all sorts of military options. But just to be precise on the Iran point, if the sanctions, the political sanctions, the economic sanctions, diplomatic sanctions don't work and Iran is about to develop a nuclear bomb, you, as president, would authorize a military strike?

ROMNEY: I think I've said it as clearly as our president has. Again, I don't want to make foreign policy on foreign soil or say something different than our nation. Our president has said and I have said that it is unacceptable for Iran to become nuclear.

And that would mean that if all other options were to fail -- and they have not all been exercised; they've not all been executed at their most extreme level -- but if all other options, diplomatic, political, economic fail, then a military option is one which would be available to the president of the United States.

BLITZER: Now Syria, let's talk about Syria for a moment.

You want Bashar al-Assad to go. Everybody wants, apparently, Bashar al-Assad to go. But what would you do specifically to make that happen? I will give you a few options.

Would you send in U.S. military forces on the ground?

ROMNEY: Well, again, Wolf, because I'm on foreign soil, and because it's long been a policy of both political parties to leave politics at the water's edge, I'm not going to go through specific foreign policy prescriptions for Syria, other than to say that the removal of Assad as the leader in Syria is a high priority for our nation, as you know.

Both parties, Republican and Democrat, agree with that. We also are highly concerned about the disposition of chemical weapons which exist in some large measure in Syria. We do not see a unified opposition having been formed yet in Syria. An action that is being taken of a kinetic nature in Syria is being led by Arab League nations, by Turkey, by Saudi Arabia and others.

And when I say actions kinetically, I'm referring to armament and counsel and advice. But our nation is involved with other nations in helping move a process that will stop the slaughter of innocent life in Syria and ultimately have a more representative form of government.


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