Jerusalem, Israel –
Mitt Romney is in Israel speaking to Israeli’s about his foreign policies as he campaigns to the Jewish vote in the U.S. During an exclusive breakfast at the King David Hotel with wealthy donors who contributed more than $1 million during his stop in Israel, he told them that they were more successful than their Palestinian counterparts.
“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,” said Mitt Romney during the breakfast.
Among the attendees were billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, and hedge fund manager Paul Singer.
In supporting the figures he used, Romney said he had read books and relied on his own business experience.
He also said he recognized unified Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, something no other country does except Israel, including the U.S., which along with others, maintains its embassy in Tel Aviv. The capital of Israel is highly disputed between Israel and the Palestinians with the U.N. refusing to recognize it because it includes territory Israel won during the war which is against international laws. Palestinians were East Jerusalem as their future capital.
During comments in the Old City of Jerusalem, he said the United States would never “look away from our passion and commitment to Israel.”
Romney was not correct in the figures he used in his speech. The actual amounts are Israeli GDP $31,000 per capita and Palestinian GDP $1,500 per capita according to the world bank’s 2011 figures.
His trip was supposed to be an easy trip planned out to avoid any possible gaffs and foreign policy implications for the United States. So far, Romney has stumbled in Britain where he has been labeled “Mitt the Twitt” by the British press. Now, some will argue, he has stumbled again depending on one’s political perspective by declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel.
His comments have angered Palestinians who labeled Romney’s comments ‘racist’ and said they expected more from a U.S. presidential candidate from a “country that is supposed to be a neutral broker of peace in the region,… its like he’s saying Israeli’s are better than Palestinians” according to Palestinian news reports.
“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, a senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
“It seems to me this man (Romney) lacks information, knowledge, vision, and understanding of this region and its people,” Erekat added. “He also lacks knowledge about the Israelis themselves. I have not heard any Israeli official speak about cultural superiority.”
In making his comparisons of the Israeli and Palestinian economies, Romney did not mention the Israeli’s control the West Bank and that Palestinians have only limited self-rule. Israeli imposes blockades and prevent people and commerce from moving around the Palestinian area, keeping people in their cities and districts mostly.
The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have said repeatedly that the Palestinian economy can only grow if Israel lifts those restrictions.
A Gallup survey of Jewish voters released Friday showed Obama with a 68-25 edge over Romney.
Israel has maintained a state of increased security and imposed restrictions on the movement of people and built a wall to prevent suicide bombers and terrorist from attacking Israeli’s. Israeli civilians were the targets of numerous attacks by Palestinians in the past and Israel resorted to these security measures as a way to protect itself after the Palestinian Authority was unable to police militant terrorist organizations within Palestinian territories.
The two sides have had on-again-off-again peace talks which are currently stalled with Palestinians refusing to begin negotiations until Israel stops all settlement construction.
Israel had said that it would only start peace negotiations without any preconditions.
Meanwhile, Israel continues to facilitate hundreds of trucks of supplies a day into the Gaza Strip, and pay the Palestinian Authority monthly taxes and other economic support in the West Bank.