The Obama administration, trying to dig itself out of a hole with American Jews, just inadvertently dug itself in even deeper. Today, Mitt Romney spoke in Jerusalem, where he attributed Palestinian economic stagnation to cultural issues:
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. As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000, and compare that with 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.
In point of fact, as of 2009, Israel had a per capita GDP of just under $30,000, while the Palestinians were below $3,000.
But that wasn’t the bone the Obama administration had to pick with Romney. Instead, the Obama administration said that Romney’s comments wouldn’t allow America to be “seen as an honest broker … Romney fell off the tightrope pretty dramatically.” Those were the words of Colin Kahl, an Obama campaign foreign policy advisor direct from the Pentagon – the same Pentagon that has routinely leaked Israeli national security information that would allow the Jewish State to strike Iranian nuclear facilities. The Israeli-Palestinian issue, said Kahl, was “extraordinarily complicated and delicate issues and is not something you can just wing it on and expect not to make some mistakes, and Governor Romney made a big one.”
There is only one problem with this, of course: America is not supposed to be an honest broker between Israel, an American ally, and the Palestinians, a terrorist-supporting population led by Hamas and the deeply corrupt Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian culture does prevent economic growth – teaching hatred for Israelis and the west, and preventing education of women will do that.
The Obama administration may be trying to score political points at Mitt Romney’s expense, but all they’ve succeeded in doing is underscoring their own tepid support for the State of Israel.
That doesn’t stop the New York Times from labeling Romney’s statements a gaffe, and stating that this was “the second time that Mr. Romney has unwittingly offended a group of people in a part of the world he was visiting.” But Romney was right – culture matters. And the Obama administration and New York Times are going to have a rough go of convincing American Jews that they should vote for Obama when he wants to pretend that culture isn’t a significant differentiator between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs.