Republican candidate Mitt Romney has drawn international criticism for suggesting that a superior culture — not occupation — explains the gap between the Israeli and Palestinian economies. Speaking at a fundraiser attended by wealthy U.S. donors in Jerusalem, Romney spoke of a “dramatically stark difference in economic vitality” between Israel and the Occupied Territories. Romney concluded, “I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things … if you could learn anything from the economic history of the world it’s this: Culture makes all the difference.” Romney added that similar economic differences are present in other neighboring countries, such as the United States and Mexico. In his comments, Romney also grossly understated the income gap between Israelis and Palestinians living under occupation. Palestinians have denounced Romney’s remarks. In Ramallah, Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat said Romney had been racist.
Saeb Erekat: “Look, Palestinians and Israelis may be in a conflict, but Palestinians and Israelis are people, equal, and such racist statements do not serve those who are trying to protect and save lives in this region.”
In his remarks, Romney also lavished praise on Israel’s socialized medical system, applauding it for its lower rate of GDP spending than in the United States. Romney was in Israel as part of a three-nation foreign tour that has now brought him to Poland.