Update (7/31/12): John Harwood, a CNBC correspondent who spoke on the Maddow show last night reports that he was told by a senior GOP strategist that “What Mitt Romney really wanted out of this trip was what he got on the front pages of every newspaper in the country, which was the picture of himself at the Wailing Wall.”
Because that’s what the Jewish people’s holiest site is meant for: Photo-ops.
The boy becomes bar mitzvah in two and a half weeks; we have 11 Israelis arriving for the event; four days after we celebrate the boy’s accomplishments and on the very day that the Israelis fly home, the school year begins.
What I’m saying here is that I’m very busy.
But everybody and his/her brother has already noted that Mitt Romney was an even bigger disaster in Israel/Palestine than he was in England — so I don’t have to!
Hereunder, some summing up, and linkage, for your #RomneyShamblesintheHolyLand edification
Romney read his speech from two teleprompters that were placed opposite the stage, but compared to Obama, Romney seemed gray and uncharismatic. Even from this hand-picked, extremely friendly audience, he wasn’t able to extract thunderous applause.
The speech itself sounded as if it could have been written by Netanyahu’s bureau. So it’s no surprise that when the two met later for dinner, Netanyahu thanked him for his “support for Israel and Jerusalem.”
…Romney opened with Netanyahu’s favorite subject commenting on the rise of the Jewish people after the Holocaust, continuing with Israel and the United States’ common values, mentioning the 40th anniversary of the murder of the 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, talked about the terrorist attack at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem a decade ago, which took the life of Israeli and American students, as well as, lauding Israeli innovation and its thriving economy. Apparently, in his in-flight briefing, Romney wasn’t briefed on Israel’s social protest.
…”We cannot stand silent as those who seek to undermine Israel voice their criticisms. And we certainly should not join in that criticism. Diplomatic distance in public between our nations emboldens Israel’s adversaries.”
Those words were clearly aimed at the repeated public confrontations between Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding the building In the settlements and the freeze in settlement expansion.
“As you come here and you see the GDP [gross domestic product] 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.
…“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, citing an innovative business climate, the Jewish history of thriving in difficult circumstances and “the hand of providence.”
…[Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb] Erekat sharply criticized Romney’s remarks, calling them “a racist statement. 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,” Erekat added. “He also lacks knowledge about the Israelis themselves. I have not heard any Israeli official speak about cultural superiority.”
Palestine therefore desperately needs to expand its private sector, which you should encourage. But it cannot. Palestinian banks have been unable to lend more than about $3 billion to credit-worthy business plans. For when you look at all of the things an ordinary businessperson takes for granted—mobility, access to markets, talent, suppliers and financial services—you see the frustrating effects of an occupation designed to advance the settlers, not Palestinian development.
…But other problems are just as serious. Businesses need world-class managers, who have to be able to travel freely. Entrepreneurs from the Palestinian diaspora, if born abroad, have to fight for years to get residency permits. The handful who succeed cannot then use Ben Gurion Airport or come to Jerusalem, but suffer the same restrictions as locals. Components for Palestinian manufacturing are routinely held up in Israel ports, waiting for long security checks. (One Palestinian aluminum window manufacturer, denied a coating material that could be used to make explosives, offered to pay for IDF soldiers to supervise the entire process.)
Palestinian banks cannot park their cash reserves in Israeli banks, losing tens of millions of dollars in interest. They also cannot set up branches or even ATMs in East Jerusalem, where unemployment is over 25 percent and 50 percent live under the poverty line.
…Providence needs help sometimes, it seems. But you didn’t really come to Jerusalem to learn, did you?
The candidate’s call to acknowledge what anyone can see is Israel’s capital is far more complicated than it seems, and a microcosm of the crucial but difficult role that the U.S. plays in securing peace.
Frankly the whole thing can be summed up in a single tweet from Barak Ravid: “In order to get few votes in Boca Raton and [Sheldon] Adelson’s money, Romney completely ignores the Palestinians.”