INTERNATIONAL > Romney courts donors, raises cash in Israel

JERICHO, West Bank - The Associated Press

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U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney delivers foreign policy remarks at Mishkenot Sha'ananim in Jerusalem, July 29, 2012. REUTERS Photo

U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney delivers foreign policy remarks at Mishkenot Sha'ananim in Jerusalem, July 29, 2012. REUTERS Photo

Mitt Romney told Jewish donors today that their culture is part of what has allowed them to be more economically successful than the nearby Palestinians, outraging Palestinian leaders who called his comments racist and out of touch.
"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," the Republican presidential candidate told about 40 wealthy donors who breakfasted around a U-shaped table at the luxurious King David Hotel.
The reaction of Palestinian leaders to Romney’s comments was swift and pointed.
"What is this man doing here?" said Saeb Erekat, a top Palestinian official. "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?"
The economic disparity between the Israelis and the Palestinians is actually much greater than Romney stated. Israel had a per capita gross domestic product of about $31,000 in 2011, while the West Bank and Gaza had a per capita GDP of just over $1,500, according to the World Bank.
Romney, seated next to billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson at the head of the table, told donors at his fundraiser that he had read books and relied on his own business experience to understand why the difference is so great.
"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," Romney said, citing an innovative business climate, the Jewish history of thriving in difficult circumstances and the "hand of providence."
Romney, in comparing the Israeli and Palestinian economies, made no mention of the fact that Israel has controlled the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem since capturing them in the 1967 war. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, but continues to control access, and has enforced a crippling border blockade since the Islamic militant Hamas seized the territory in 2007.
In the West Bank, Israel retains overall control, and Palestinians only have limited self-rule. Israel controls all border crossings in and out of the West Bank, and continues to restrict Palestinian trade and movement.
The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have said repeatedly that the Palestinian economy can only grow if Israel lifts those restrictions.
"It’s Israeli occupiers and Palestinians under occupation, and that’s why Palestinians cannot realize their potential," Erekat said.
The breakfast with top donors - including Adelson, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson and hedge fund manager Paul Singer - concluded Romney’s visit to Israel, the second leg of a three-nation overseas tour designed to bolster the his foreign policy credentials.
Standing on Israeli soil for the first time as the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Romney on Sunday declared Jerusalem to be the capital of the Jewish state and said the United States has promised never to "look away from our passion and commitment to Israel."
The status of Jerusalem is a critical issue in peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
During his visit to Israel, Romney did not meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas or visit the West Bank. He held a brief meeting with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
Romney’s campaign says his trip abroad, which began in England last week, is aimed at improving the former Massachusetts governor’s foreign policy experience through a series of meetings with foreign leaders. The candidate has largely avoided direct criticism of U.S. President Barack Obama while on foreign soil.
The Jerusalem fundraiser, however, was a political event that raised more than $1 million for Romney’s campaign. It marks at least the second finance event during his tour. The first, in London, attracted about 250 people to a $2,500 per person fundraiser.
Both presidential candidates have aggressively courted American donors living abroad, a practice that is legal and has been used for decades.
Romney’s declaration that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital was keeping with claims made by Israeli governments for decades, even though the United States, like other nations, maintains its embassy in Tel Aviv.
His remarks on the subject during his speech drew a standing ovation from his audience, which included Adelson, the American businessman who has promised to donate more than $100 million to help defeat Obama.
Adelson was among a several donors who flew to Israel for a day of sightseeing with Romney in addition to private meetings with top Israeli officials.
A group of donors also met with a top aide to President Benjamin Netanyahu, one donor said on the condition of anonymity to discuss private meetings.
Romney met with Netanyahu and other leaders before his speech Sunday. He also visited the Western
Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, where he was mobbed by worshippers.
In his remarks, Romney steered clear of overt criticism of Obama, even though he said the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran "has only become worse" in the past five years.
Romney flew to the Middle East from Britain, where he caused a stir by questioning whether officials there were fully prepared for the Olympic Games. A stop in Poland will complete his trip.
Four years ago, Obama visited Israel as a presidential candidate, part of a five-nation trip meant to establish his own foreign policy credentials.
A goal of Romney’s overseas trip is to demonstrate his confidence on the world stage, but his stop in Israel also was designed to appeal to evangelical voters at home and to cut into Obama’s support among Jewish voters and donors. A Gallup survey of Jewish voters released Friday showed Obama with a 68-25 edge over Romney.
Romney and other Republicans have said Obama is insufficiently supportive of Israel.


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Notice on comments

Brit in Turkey

7/31/2012 6:14:13 AM

mistique holland - I can't recall an occasion when Cameron has been abusive to a host nation he is visiting. He might try to stand up to the undemocratic EU though, getting it in the neck from France and Germany for doing so. As to the colonies, please look at a world atlas and you will not find many of them left - just small island groups who need the protection. Last time I looked Australia, Canada, India, Nigeria etc. are independent even though they may still have the queen as head of state.

mara mcglothin

7/30/2012 8:04:25 PM

All politicians are out for what they can get!! Romney, Obama, Erdogan--makes no difference. and just FYI Many of those jews are American citizens and have every right to donate to any campaign they would like just like the rest of us. DANIEL AND BRIT IN TURKEY Looks like the vote this year will come down to the "lesser of two evils" There are no statesmen in the race.

Lior Uziel

7/30/2012 7:41:51 PM

he raised double the money last week in London, I didn't see that mentioned in this article... Then the regular racist chorus that I see if regularly in this site would not have had another excuse to "sing" the usual song of "Jews rule and buy the world"

Red Tail

7/30/2012 4:17:09 PM

Mr Romney says "the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita" Is that figure really correct? Turkey has around 10 000 usd per capita, and in my eayes seems far better off than the Palestinians. I have never been to palestine though.

Tayyar Abi

7/30/2012 4:10:06 PM

@Brit in Turkey; I know one American he upsets. ME.

mistique holland

7/30/2012 4:04:50 PM

@Brit in Turkey, I assume you mean David Cameron of ENGLAND who sticks his nose in everything that doesn?t concern him because he want to play with the big boys now???He can learn a thing of two of Turkish PV Erdogan!!!! THey(England) too still have colonies in the world, that's why they speak in favour of the Israeli colonists.....They all like to opress people....


7/30/2012 3:24:26 PM

It is a disgrace that the candidate for the most powerful office in the world has to first ingratiate himself to a certain small group to improve his chances, or that is what his handlers think. Is he running for a US office or Israel? Shamful.

Brit in Turkey

7/30/2012 3:09:51 PM

America, watch out for this man. He seems even better at upsetting people than a certain PM.

mistique holland

7/30/2012 2:29:26 PM

He is like ever other American President selling himself out for jewish shekels...When the jews take out their money out of the USA than the USA is bankrupt, that is why they all niced talk to them but in fact they can't stand the Israeli and are all PRO Palestine...They are just scared to lose out of the money...USA is worth nothing.
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