Mitt Romney traveled to Jerusalem earlier this week. He was not there on a fact-finding mission. He was raising money for his presidential campaign.
He was also cultivating American voters who live in Israel, while stroking his pro-Israel voters back home with pictures like this one (above) of the candidate praying at the Western Wall.
The only attention the Palestinians received came in a back-handed slap delivered by Romney when he spoke to a luncheon sponsored by his wealthy U.S. backer, casino owner Sheldon Adelson.
Romney told 40 wealthy donors at Jerusalem's King David Hotel that Israel has a far superior GDP per capita than "the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority."
Displaying a total ignorance of the prison-like occupation under which the Palestinian people must struggle, Romney explained that the "dramatically stark difference in economic vitality" was due to Israel's superior culture.
Grossly misstating the 2009 GDF figures available on the United Nations website, Romney said:
"As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000 dollars [actually $27,060], and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 [actually $1,367] per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality."
Romney did not cross over into what he called "the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority." He did not see for himself the so-called "security wall." Instead like the average American tourist traveling under Israeli guides all he appeared to know about the region came from books he or his staff had read.
That reading prompted Romney to say that "some economic histories have theorized that 'culture makes all the difference.'"
Zooming in on the financial backers he spoke to at the King David Hotel, Romney added:
"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 [including] an innovative business climate, the Jewish history of thriving in difficult circumstances and the 'hand of providence.'"
He said similar disparity exists between neighboring countries, like Mexico and the United States.
Back in Boston, Romney was asked about such comments. He told ABC News: "You know, I tend to tell people what I actually believe."
Future polls will have to reveal how much damage among U.S. voters Romney's amazing display of ignorance about the history and politics of this region, has done to his political standing.
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