At a campaign breakfast this morning for wealthy Republican donors in Jerusalem, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney weighed in on the economic disparity between Israel and Palestine.
Romney said that Israel’s per capita GDP was $21,000 compared to Palestine’s $10,000 (according to the World Bank, the figures are actually $31,000 for Israel and $1,500 for the West Bank and Gaza). In his talk, Romney praised Israel’s success and attributed its economic vitality to “the power of culture,” citing some books he’d read and his own business experience.
His comments angered Palestinians, who were swift to react. A senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called Romney’s statements “racist,” and added that Romney “lacks information, knowledge, vision and understanding of this region and its people.”
The candidate’s comments clearly ignored the fact that Israel has retained control over the West Bank since 1967, limiting border crossings and restricting Palestinian trade. But scholars have cited differences, such as an emphasis on education and community support, as factors in the economic growth of some cultures over others.
Were Romney’s comments racist, or does he have a point? Has Romney stepped over the line in an attempt to court the Jewish vote? Does this and other so-called “gaffes” overseas show a lack of potential as a statesman?