Gaffe-prone Romney puts his foot in it over Palestinians

In the video he also claims the Palestinians are not interested in peace.

Just a few hours after Romney was forced to defend describing 47% of Americans as government dependent "victims" who do not pay taxes, a new excerpt of the video recorded at a private fundraiser with wealthy donors in May was released by liberal magazine Mother Jones.

"I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say, 'There's just no way'," Romney is heard to say. "And so what you do is you say, 'You move things along the best way you can.' You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognise that this is going to remain an unsolved problem."

He then adds: "All right, we have a potentially volatile situation but we sort of live with it, and we kick the ball down the field and hope that, ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it."

Although the comments are not as devastating to his campaign as the 47% remarks revealed on Monday, his interpretation of a complex conflict is crude and will further enrage Palestinians still smarting from dismissive remarks he made about their culture on a recent visit to Israel.

Romney claimed that one of the reasons the creation of a Palestinian state on the West Bank would be difficult was that it could then become a base through which Iran and other Arab nations could channel rockets and other weapons to threaten the Israeli financial capital Tel Aviv. He describes Tel Aviv as being only 11km from the West Bank, though it is 65km away.

United States presidents have attempted to portray themselves as independent referees in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, though in reality they have tended to side with Israel. Romney's comments rule him out of the role of independent arbiter.

The Obama administration, apart from a few tentative attempts at the start of his presidency, has made no serious effort to resolve the conflict. But it has hinted that, free from the constraints of fighting another election, it might take a more robust approach to the issue in a second term.

Mother Jones said it obtained the video from an unnamed source who recorded it at a $50000-a-head Romney fundraiser in Boca Raton, Florida, held by hedge-fund boss Marc Leder. The magazine has more excerpts lined up, making it impossible for the Romney campaign to dampen down the firestorm and get back to its core strategy of attacking Barack Obama's handling of the economy.

The Obama campaign was quick to jump on Romney's 47% remarks, with campaign manager Jim Messina accusing the Republican of "disdainfully writing off half the nation".

With seven weeks left, there is still time for Romney to turn it around, with the support of millions of dollars in advertising and a good performance in the debates with Obama, the first scheduled for October 3 in Denver, Colorado.

The controversy broke only hours after the Romney campaign set out to recalibrate its strategy. It said it would attempt to give a clearer, more positive picture of their candidate.

Romney began his campaign intent on making the election about Obama's economic record and making himself as small a target as possible by disclosing little about his own policies. But since then there has barely been a clear week in which Romney has been able to get his message across, either because of a barrage of ads on his record as chief executive of Bain Capital and his unwillingness to release more than two years' of tax records, or because of gaffes on his own side. – © Guardian News & Media 2012

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Ewen Macaskill
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