Palestinians are not pleased with Mitt Romney's visit to Israel

Before departing for Poland, Romney held a fundraiser in Israel during which he made some comments about the Middle East’s various economies that Palestinians apparently found rather uncouth. Oh, dear — however could Romney have made such a fatally gauche error? Heaven knows we would never want to offend anyone.

“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 said.

(Figures on the United Nations’ website actually indicate a much greater disparity between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory. Israel had a per capita GDP of $27,060 in 2009, while the 2009 per capita GDP of the occupied Palestinian territory was listed as $1,367.) …

“He says if you can learn anything from the economic history of the world, it’s this: culture makes all the difference. Culture makes all the difference. 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.

…[H]is remark Monday in Israel drew a sharp reaction from Sa’eb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator and a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

“This man, before he came here, he should have got some education about Israelis, Palestinians, and the region,” Erekat said. “The Romney statements on Jerusalem and the racist statements about the Israeli culture being superior to the Palestinian culture reflect someone who needs to be educated, who needs knowledge. His statements are serving those extremist in the region now, and will serve extremists unfortunately.”

Er, yes… I’m sure you can find some racism in there somewhere, especially if you’re a moral relativist who doesn’t believe that a people’s collective belief systems shape their socio-political institutions which in turn shape their economies… or if you get your talking points from MSNBC. Sorry, but I don’t see this as a “gaffe” or a “fumble” at all, as much as Team Obama would no doubt like to illustrate it as such:

The White House was subtly gleeful today as Mitt Romney’s campaign dealt with the latest group to be offended during the Republican presidential candidate’s overseas tour that was intended to showcase his foreign policy credentials. …

“One of the challenges of being an actor on the international stage, particularly when you’re traveling to such a sensitive part of the world, is that your comments are very closely scrutinized for meaning, for nuance, for motivation,” Obama Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said today in the White House briefing.

“And it is clear that there are some people who have taken a look at those comments and are scratching their heads a little bit.”

Well, I’ve taken a look at his comments, and I’m not scratching my head even a little bit. Romney went on to point out that the differences you can see in the Middle East are the same differences you can see between “Chile and Ecuador; Mexico and the United States.” Maybe that’s something the Palestinians don’t want to hear, but I’d prefer a president willing to risk the ire of one group rather than tiptoeing around trying not to offend anyone. Spend your time trying to please everyone, and you end up pleasing no one — and you oftentimes sacrifice your integrity, to boot.