WASHINGTON, July 30, 2012 — Mitt Romney played the God card during a fundraiser at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel, where he raised a $1 million for his campaign. He told his well-heeled supporters that Israel’s economic success is thanks to the “hand of providence,” offending the Palestinians, but pleasing his donors.
His latest gaffe followed on the heels of having declared Jerusalem is the capital of Israel or should be in direct contradiction of long-standing U.S. policy. Comparing Israel’s economic engine to the sputtering one of Palestine, Romney said, “As I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation [Israel], I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things.”
Romney then went on to say, “I am overwhelmingly impressed with the hand of providence, whenever it chooses to apply itself, and also the greatness of the human spirit, and how individuals who reach for greatness and have purpose above themselves are able to build and accomplish things that could only be done by a species created in the image of God.”
Needless to say, this speech provoked outrage from the Palestinians with Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian aide to the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, strongly condemning Romney’s remarks in an interview with Associated Press: “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.”
“It seems to me this man lacks information, knowledge, vision, and understanding of this region and its people. He also lacks knowledge about the Israelis themselves. I have not heard any Israeli official speak about cultural superiority.”
Romney then proceeded to erroneously compare the two countries’ economies, saying, “As you come here and you see the GDP [gross domestic product] 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.”
The World Bank’s figures, however, dispute that assertion. Israel’s per capital GDP in 2011 was around $31,000 and the West Bank and Gaza’s was $1,500, a far cry from Romney’s $10,000 figure.
Romney had met on Sunday with the Palestinian Authority’s prime minister, Salam Fayad. Supposedly the conversation was mainly about the London Olympics and not about God’s preference for Israel.
Some Israelis were also a bit uncomfortable with Romney’s comments as well, noting that the GOP candidate didn’t understand the nuances of the long-running conflict. As former ambassador to the U.S., Zalman Shoval, said in an interview: “There’s no doubt about Israel’s economic achievement over the years, but I would not compare that to the Palestinian economy because obviously the Palestinian economy operates under different conditions.”
Romney did not visit the West Bank nor mention the 45-year occupation of it nor the blockade of Gaza, which are necessary for Israel’s security, but still have had a severe impact on the Palestinian economy, according to the World Bank and IMF.
Romney’s campaign later said his remarks were “mischaracterized.”
On Sunday, Romney called Jerusalem the capital of Israel. Israel had established Jerusalem as its capital in 1950, though only two countries in the world recognize it as the capital.
The U.S. like all foreign embassies is in Tel Aviv with consular services in Jerusalem. The long standing White House policy, both in Democratic and Republican administrations, on whether Jerusalem should ever be the capital or not has always been: “The status of Jerusalem is an issue that should be resolved in final status negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. We continue to work with the parties to resolve this issue and others in a way that is just and fair, and respects the rights and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians.”
Romney’s remarks about Jerusalem had prompted another Palestinian official, Nabil Abu Rudeineh to label Romney’s words as unhelpful to peace negotiations, noting that it “contradicts previous positions held by the American administration.”
Joining Romney at his fundraiser were New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, hedge fund manager Paul Singer and billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson, who sat next to Mitt Romney. Adelson, who also owns Israel Hayom, Israel’s largest circulation newspaper, is strong supporter of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Next stop for Romney is Poland where he supposedly will cast himself in the mold of President Reagan as a tough conservative who will be a stronger ally than President Obama. His speech in Warsaw on Tuesday is called, “The U.S.-Poland Relationship and the Values of Liberty.”
Romney’s foreign policy advisor, Ian Brzezinski says the trip is about “U.S. support of Poland as a captive nation during the Cold War” and how Reagan supported the Solidarity Movement, which toppled Soviet control of the country.l
So far Romney has visited two countries on his whirlwind tour and managed to insult people at both stops. Will Poland burnish his image and erase the earlier gaffes, making him seem presidential or will Romney just be Romney and step into it again?
To contact Catherine Poe, see above. Her work appears in Ad Lib at the Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. She can also be heard on Democrats for America’s Future. She is also a contributor to broadcast, print and online media.
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