Romney's Israel comments 'promoting extremism, violence and hatred,' says Palestinian negotiator


US Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney delivers a speech outside the Old City on July 29, 2012 in Jerusalem, Israel. Romney stated that he backs Israel's right to defend itself against the threat of a nuclear Iran. He is in Israel as part of a three-nation foreign diplomatic tour which also includes visits to Poland and Great Britain.


Uriel Sinai

Palestinians were enraged by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's comments in Israel on Monday suggesting that the state's economic success was due to its culture.

Palestinian leaders said the comments were racist and out of touch with reality, according to the Associated Press. The Romney campaign said his remarks were mischaracterized.

"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," Romney told Jewish donors at the King David Hotel on Monday, according to the AP.

He continued, "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 Guardian.

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Saeb Erekat, a senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said, "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," according to the AP.

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The Guardian reported that Erekat said, "Yesterday, he destroyed negotiations by saying Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and today he is saying Israeli culture is more advanced than Palestinian culture. Isn't this racism? Israelis and Palestinians have a conflict, but they are people, they are equal, it is not a better culture or advanced culture."

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Romney also sparked anger when he called Jerusalem "the capital of Israel" on Sunday, ignoring the Palestinian claim and the world's opinion, according to Reuters. Most countries, including the United States, have not recognized Israel's claim that Jerusalem is the "complete and undivided" capital of the country.

Erekat said, "What this man is doing here is just promoting extremism, violence and hatred, and this is absolutely unacceptable," according to Reuters.

Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) secretary-general Yasser Abed Rabbo said, "American policy makers must abandon hypocrisy and stop attempting to gain votes at the expense of the Palestinian people's rights," according to Reuters.

Romney met with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Sunday but did not meet with President Mahmoud Abbas during his trip. MSNBC noted that not once in Romney's speech on Sunday did he mention the words "peace process" or "Palestine."