Romney accused of racism by Palestinian official

Mitt Romney at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on 29 July 2012 Image copyright AP

Mitt Romney has offended again. And again, it may be a blunt and undiplomatic reflection of what he really thinks.

He was talking to donors at a breakfast at Jerusalem's plush and historic King David hotel. Each of them had paid at least $25,000 (£16,000) to attend.

Mr Romney was talking about what he called "the dramatically stark difference in economic vitality" between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. He said that in Israel, the gross domestic product was $21,000 per capita compared to $10,000 in the Palestinian territories.

His figures actually understate the gap.

This was no rant, but a discursive chat. Mr Romney noted that one book he had read recently, Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel (utterly brilliant, by the way) put economic differences down to geography.

Another, he said, says if you can learn anything it is that "culture makes all the difference".

And when he looked at the accomplishments of the people of Israel he recognised the power of culture and a few other things.

It does seem at least odd that Mr Romney did not also reflect on the "few other things" that might have an impact on economic dynamism.

This is not to suggest that he should shy away from the argument in general, which is an interesting one.

But many would argue the recent history of the Palestinians has had a bigger impact on their economic prospects than anything else.

Certainly one senior aide to the Palestinian Authority's president has condemned the remark, calling it a racist statement that did not recognise that the Palestinian economy could not reach its potential because of an Israeli occupation.

During his visit, Mr Romney did meet the Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, but did not go to the West Bank.

More importantly his speech, which lavished praise on Israel, never mentioned the Palestinians once, in any context.

So this breakfast remark is perhaps not a gaffe in any sense. It is of a piece with his attitude generally, and what he thinks.

Supporters back home will not be bothered by this latest row. Opponents will be aghast.