In some ways, Mitt Romney’s Israel trip was more successful than his visit to Great Britain. This time, at least, he didn’t insult his hosts. He just insulted the culture of the Palestinians who live in territory occupied by his hosts.
“As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000 dollars, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality,” Romney said at a fundraising breakfast in Jerusalem.
“And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things,” Romney continued.
Palestinian officials blasted Romney for making what they characterized as a racist statement.
“It is a racist statement and this man doesn’t realize that the Palestinian economy cannot reach its potential because there is an Israeli occupation,” said Saeb Erekat, an aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
“It seems to me this man lacks information, knowledge, vision and understanding of this region and its people,” continued Erekat. “He also lacks knowledge about the Israelis themselves. I have not heard any Israeli official speak about cultural superiority.”
Romney understated the economic disparity between Israel and Palestine; Israel has a per capita GDP of $31,000, while Palestine’s is just $1,500.
Romney also failed to mention the ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip by Israel, which has hampered the ability of the most populous region of Palestine to grow economically.
Romney’s comments on the economic disparity between Israel and Palestine were not the only comments that drew raised eyebrows. Romney said that as president, he would unconditionally support Israel.
“We cannot stand silent as those who seek to undermine Israel voice their criticisms. And we certainly should not join in that criticism. Diplomatic distance in public between our nations emboldens Israel’s adversaries,” Romney said.
Romney also indicated that he would back Israel if it chose to attack nuclear facilities in Iran.
“We should employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course, and it is our fervent hope that diplomatic and economic measures will do so. In the final analysis, of course, no option should be excluded. We recognize Israel’s right to defend itself, and that it is right for America to stand with you,” he said.
Romney also said he would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, something several administrations, including the George W. Bush and Reagan administrations, have declined to do.
Romney also had multiple issues with his Jerusalem fundraiser. He was forced to reschedule the fundraiser after it turned out he was originally to hold a dinner fundraiser on Tisha B’Av, a Jewish day of fasting. He also originally planned to bar reporters from the fundraiser, breaking an agreement the Romney campaign had with the press. However, Romney ultimately relented, allowing the press to report on his remarks on Palestine.
The visit wasn’t a total loss. Romney was able to raise about $1 million from his fundraising breakfast. And he got a chance to visit with Sheldon Adelson, the casino mogul, who has pledged millions in soft money to aid Romney’s campaign.
Image Credit: Donkey Hotey