Romney at no point mentioned that the Palestinian territories have for decades been occupied without sovereign control, where residents face significant restrictions on movement and employment.
“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,” Saeb Erakat, a senior Palestinian Authority official, told the AP.
Romney attributed the gap in success in part to Israel’s “culture.”
“Culture makes all the difference,” Romney said. “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.” Among them, he cited “the hand of providence.”
Romney’s campaign noted that the candidate has used variations of his “culture” theory of economics before in speeches unrelated to Israel, attributing his thinking to a book by Harvard history professor David Landes. Nonetheless, Romney’s opening remarks left little ambiguity that he was making a direct comparison between Israel and the Palestinian territories.