Mitt Romney came fresh off a trip to London in which managed to insult the entire country to a fundraiser in Israel where there were so many things wrong it’s almost hard to know where to begin.
First, the setup: The Romney camp initially stirred up some controversy by scheduling a high-priced fundraiser ($25K – $50K per plate) on a day of fasting in Israel. Accused of being culturally insensitive, there were rumors that Romney would cancel the fundraiser.
But team Romney insisted it wasn’t an accident or a gaffe, and that they’d go ahead with it. HuffPo reports Jonny Daniels, a Republican strategist in Israel, said, “It wasn’t really a gaffe They knew what the day was, but they were looking for the correct time and circumstance to do it. Instead it ended up seeming like a big dinner, but that’s not really what it is.”
“Don’t worry, they’re not going to not have a fundraiser,” he continued. “They’ll find a way around it maybe by having a breaking of the fast meal combined with a Romney fundraiser.”
The event went down yesterday as planned—the way they found around it was just to not have any Israelis there. “All of the donors are U.S. citizens,” writes Washington Post, “and many of them flew here from the United States to be with Romney during his 36-hour visit to Jerusalem.”
But where the fundraiser really got inappropriate was when Romney started talking about his admiration for Israel:
[A]s 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. …
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.
Rightly, Palestinians were offended by the comment. Tying Israel’s economic advantage to cultural superiority rather than acknowledging the geopolitical realities affecting the region is not only racist, it’s downright ignorant, they said. Saeb Erekat, top authority in the Palestinian Authority, 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.
It seems to me this man lacks information, knowledge, vision and understanding of this region and its people. He also lacks knowledge about the Israelis themselves. I have not heard any Israeli official speak about cultural superiority.
Within his brief 36 hours in Israel, Romney set back the clock on the peace efforts Obama has pursued between Israel and Palestine, and managed to agitate yet another sensitive foreign relationship.
Whether Romney was overcompensating for his London insult by going to another country and proclaiming it culturally superior to its neighbor, who knows. Whatever it was, it’s not a good look that Romney can’t seem to step outside the narrow range of rich white Americans who populated his fundraiser without offending somebody (or everybody, as the case may be.)