Mitt Romney supporters should be worried. At kiddush, Mr. Goldman, a solid Republican, called the GOP’s candidate a ‘shmegege” after his comments about the London Olympics. Now, Mr. Goldman will doubtlessly vote for Mr. Romney, but it highlights the degree of difficulty Romney’s been having making himself appear statesmanlike. His recent comments in Israel on the nature of the difference between the Israeli and Palestinian economies will doubtlessly not trouble Republican voters (and will probably be celebrated by many of them), but it does suggest a certain lack of awareness, both of reality, and of his need to present a greater grasp of it. In discussing the difference between the economies in Israel and the West Bank (if you want to nitpick, he did suggest it was a “country,” which, an error which, if made by Obama, would have led some in the right-wing Zionist camp to accuse him of planning to obliterate Israel), he said the following:
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. One, I recognize the hand of providence in selecting this place…
Culture certainly plays a part in economic development, but only a part, and one might argue that there are some other factors that might play a role–such as the ability of a government, say Israel’s, to prevent a subject people from developing economically. Say what you will about the conflict itself, the reality is that since 1967, Israel has controlled the economic development of the West Bank, and its policy for most of that time was to limit the Palestinian economy for the benefit of the Israeli economy, in ways great and small, from explicitly denying Palestinians the ability to open businesses that would compete with Israeli businesses, to limiting Palestinian access to water resources. These policies, it should be noted, have, for the most part, been adopted for Israel’s economic advantage, not it’s legitimate security needs.
Now, as noted, this disregard for reality is unlikely to cost Romney Republican support (especially not from sugar daddy Sheldon Adelson), but it certainly doesn’t bode well for the future that the possible president doesn’t seem to have a grasp of Israeli-Palestinian relations beyond that of a 5th grade Hebrew school student (even Bush at least had Arab friends and acquaintances from his family’s years in the oil business). The real irony in all this, of course, is that while Republicans decry any effort to regulate the American economy as opressive, their candidate seems to have no problem whatsoever with Israel’s imposition of actual oppressive regulations on the Palestinian economy (and apparently, judging by his praise for Israel’s socialized medical system, he also has a soft spot for national health care–but we knew that already).