"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," the Republican presidential candidate told about 40 wealthy donors who ate breakfast at the luxurious King David Hotel.Romney said some economic histories have theorized that "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."
And here is the angry and overly defensive Palestinian response:
"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," said Saeb Erekat, a senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas."It seems to me this man lacks information, knowledge, vision and understanding of this region and its people."
It seems to me, from a logical perspective, Romney's comments would only be racist if, in the absence of an Israeli occupation, the Palestinians would have a GDP per capita around where Israel's is. The regional data doesn't seem to corroborate that sort of thinking. According to the latest data from the IMF, Israel has a GDP per Capita of $30,975 (Romney seemed to be understating it a little), the neighbor with the closest level of GDP per capita is Lebanon with $15,523, which benefits from large and relatively wealthy christian minority. The numbers get much worse from here. Egypt has a GDP per capita of $6,540, Jordan's is at $5,900 and Syria's pre-civil war tally is at $5,041. None of these are anywhere close to Israel's and none of these countries can realistically be viewed as being occupied by the Israelis. Turkey, which is a member of NATO, only has a GDP per capita of $14,517. Even Saudi Arabia, which is sitting on a humongous amount of US and UK engineer discovered oil can't match the Israeli number. The only countries in the area that surpass Israel are the very small oil rich countries of Qatar and United Arab Emirates. Unless they find a massive oil field in Ramallah or Jericho, there is probably no hope for the Palestinians approaching their wealth, Israeli occupation or not.
Now I'm not saying there is no negative impact from checkpoints etc., obviously there are, but even without them, there would be a considerable gap in GDP per capita between the two entities, obviously driven by culture (it sure isn't driven by natural resources!). Romney certainly isn't lacking in any understanding in that regard.