Mitt Romney's Mideast Muddle

Comments about Palestinians raise questions about his fitness to be president.

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Mitt Romney's comments about too many Americans wanting government handouts has been getting the headlines, but his expressed views on the Middle East could have more serious consequences by making it more difficult for him to govern if he wins the presidency.

Romney has been struggling to explain his views since a video surfaced of him arguing that the Palestinians don't want the peace process with Israel to succeed. Romney added that "there's just no way" right now for negotiations to work because the Palestinians are "committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel."'

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Romney predicted that the Israel-Palestinian conflict will remain "an unsolved problem." Supporters of President Obama say this shows that Romney would give up on the peace process.

But Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams says the video was "selectively edited" to distort the Republican presidential nominee's views and make it appear that he wants to abandon the peace process.

Mother Jones, a liberal magazine and web site, subequently released more of the tape showing that Romney actually argued that, with "American resolve," the Palestinians will "some day reach the point where they want peace more than we're trying to force peace on them. Then it's worth having the discussion."

Romney's Middle East analysis was included in the same video in which he told a fundraiser in May that nearly half of Americans rely too much on government and in which he expressed doubt that he could win them over from President Obama.

Veterans of previous administrations, both Democratic and Republican, say Romney is causing confusion on all sides with his Middle Eastern comments. This confusion is undermining Romney's ability to persuade Americans that he is a strong and decisive leader capable of running the country.

And if Romney he wins the presidency, it's unclear how credible he will be in dealing with the Middle East, one of the world's most volatile and dangerous regions. "He needs to be more careful in what he says," notes a former adviser to President Bill Clinton.

Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," on usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at kwalsh@usnews.com or on Facebook and Twitter.