More controversy during his tour on foreign soil? It may be so as the GOP presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney made controversial remarks at a $25,000-a-head fundraising event in Jerusalem Monday.
The event comprised of about 40 wealthy donors at the world famous King David hotel, including billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson and hedge fund manager Paul Singer. The event raised $1 million for the two-time presidential candidate’s bid for the White House.
Speaking to the attendees, Romney stated that Israel’s “hand of providence,” pro-business climate and Jewish history are among the factors of the nation’s success.
“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,” stated Romney, reports the Associated Press. “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.”
According to the CIA World Factbook, Israel’s per capita is actually $31,400, while the per capita for Palestinian areas is less than $3,000.
The presidential candidate’s remarks sparked outrage among Palestinian leaders, including Saeb Erekat, a senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who called the comments “racist.”
“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,” explained Erekat. “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.”
In the past, both the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank have noted that the Palestinian economy can grow only if Israel lifted many of its sanctions. Although Israel did indeed withdraw forces from Gaza nearly a decade ago, it still controls access and has imposed a border blockade since 2007.
Romney did not visit the West Bank nor meet with Abbas.
Holding a meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron in London last week, Romney apparently made a gaffe regarding the 2012 Olympics and London’s lack of full preparations for the major event. A Romney campaign staffer also added to the fire in a statement to The Telegraph that said President Barack Obama’s administration does not “fully appreciate the shared history we have.”