(CNN) - A Palestinian leader blasted Mitt Romney's statements at a high-dollar fund-raiser in Jerusalem as "racist" Monday after Romney made a comparison between the per capita GDPs of Israel and Palestinian-controlled areas.
Romney, speaking to a group that included Las Vegas casino owner Sheldon Adelson and New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, said higher personal wealth among citizens in Israel was an indication that the country was accomplishing something its neighbors were not.
– Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker
"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," Romney said.
(Figures on the United Nations' website actually indicate a much greater disparity between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory. Israel had a per capita GDP of $27,060 in 2009, while the 2009 per capita GDP of the occupied Palestinian territory was listed as $1,367.)
Citing the book "The Wealth and Poverty of Nations," Romney detailed his interpretation of author David Landes' thesis.
"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.
While Romney has cited Landes' book in speeches before, and included a passage about it in his own book "No Apology," his remark Monday in Israel drew a sharp reaction from Sa'eb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator and a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
"This man, before he came here, he should have got some education about Israelis, Palestinians, and the region," Erekat said. "The Romney statements on Jerusalem and the racist statements about the Israeli culture being superior to the Palestinian culture reflect someone who needs to be educated, who needs knowledge. His statements are serving those extremists in the region now, and will serve extremists unfortunately."
Erekat said Romney ignored the reality that Israeli occupation was the main reason Palestinian areas were suffering economically.
"He does not know the situation on the ground, he does not know the settlement activities, he does not know that the Palestinian economy suffers most because of the Israeli occupation, because of the road blocks and closure and so on," Erekat said.
The West Bank and the Gaza Strip came under Israel's control after the six-day war in 1967. Israel continues to control access to both regions.
The World Bank, in a 2009 report, argued the Israeli restrictions to Gaza and the West Bank were hindering economic growth in the region.
"The largest impediment to private sector investment in the West Bank and Gaza remains the restrictions on movement and access to resources and markets imposed by the Government of Israel," a report from the World Bank stated.
Erekat said Romney's remarks were based in a "lack of knowledge" about the economic realities in the region.
"This man has no knowledge and yet he comes and makes racist statements which will play in the hands of extremists in the region," Erekat said.
CNN's Kareem Khadder contributed to this report.
– Check out the CNN Electoral Map and Calculator and game out your own strategy for November.
Mr. Clueless, again Not Ready for Prime Time!! This guy really reminds me of Dukakis in 1988 - I guess the fact that they were both Massachusetts Governors is interesting.
But more seriously - we judge a culture by how much money its' citizens make per capita? What? This ranks right up there for me with General Westmoreland's statement during the Vietnam War era that the "Asian people do not value life as highly as Westerners".
Everyone one of you PRO Palestinian commenters are enemies of the USA. Israel is our ally, Palestinians would kill you if they could get their hands on you.
Just as you would kill a Palestinian if you could your hands on one.
Why is Israel and the US in such a close alliance anyway?
All I can say is: Forward-Obama 2012!!
Forget about Israel. We want to see your tax returns. What are you hiding Willard?
He is not ready for Prime Time......Mitt speaking like Chaney......that tells you something my friends....Mitt is Unfit and he will destroy the country. He is not the one for modern histroy..
This comments seemed that they came from Wackoland. All these liberals with their policies have destroyed our economy and they are driving over the cliff the US with this president in charge. Time to get rid of Mr. Obama.
To solve the Middle East problem, and bring peace to the region, give 2 or 3 Southwest states to Israel; let the UN manage the land formally known as Israel as Holylandland, like an amusement park for any and all religions. Even if you want to start a new one, it could be an entrepreneur zone for religion. (NO GUNS ALLOWED!)
And with New israel on our southern border, we solve part of the immigrate problem.
I would not be surprised to learn that Israel was somehow involved with the bad intelligence gathering about Saddam Hussein having "ready to use" WMDs and was collaborating with Osama Bin Laden.
Robmey is trying to cause oil prices to spike with all this pot stirring, then pin it on Obama.
Wow. What an idiot this romney guy is. GOP, is this the best you can do? I mean, really?
I don't care about Romney income tax. I now He make a lot of money. But under Obama American People income much less than 3.6 years ago. This where is problem .
The PA also said th. at a momen, of silence for the atheletes massacred in Munich in1972 was also racist. Their definition of racist seems to be anything that puts them in a bad light. I suppose criticim of suicde bombers who murder innocents is racist as well in their book not to mention criticism of Palastinians for the impasse in the peace process.
Funny how people who disagree with him fall back to name calling. How about some real debates seems both dems and repubs are mindless tools who can just fall back on their talking points. How about some truth instead of the lies of the right and left.
He is an awful ambassador for our country. God help the world if this guy gets elected.
I agree with spartan74, where are those tax returns Willard??
Sounds like Israel is very successful.
Does this mean they can get their hand out of the wallet of the US tax-payer and start to repay the hundreds of billions that are owed to the citizens of the USA?
Well there you have it wealth is all that is important to Mitt, gaining it hoarding it .As you can see , he even bases governing on wealth, This robotic nimcompoop could literally derail all peace initives agreed to in the last 30 years in one swoop. He is in desperate need of foreign affairs education, and now I 'am beginning to think he really is not much smarter than that other nincompoop Palin
The Muslim culture subjugates women and therefore Muslim countries can't move into the 21st century with the rest of us.
How do you feel about our good buddies in Saudi Arabia? Oh yeah... they have oil.
The buffoon Romney insults the Brits, stirs up trouble in Isreal, next he'll tell the Poles that they and their former Pope should thank Reagan for single-handedly ending the Cold War. Mitt shuld stay home and stick to what he does best: using his money to take other peoples money.
Mittens is a true divider. Whether it is in the mid east, Israel, or the United States, he brings class warfare.
Lol. There are plenty of countries that have a GDP per capita less than Israel. Russia, India, and China. He basically said Israelis are superior to those guys. He's so smart ... Is this the best the GOP has to offer?
I think the GOP also has something against women, like most extremist groups.
Weren't these the same folks who were handing out candies and dancing in the street after 9/11?
One more reason to vote for Romney! He doesn't try to put lipstick on a pig.