Mitt Romney infuriated Palestinians when, during his trip to Israel, he called the disputed city of Jerusalem the nation's capital and appeared to suggest that an inferior "culture" was to blame for the much lower standard of living in the West Bank and Gaza — without mentioning the economy-stifiling Israeli stranglehold on Palestinian movement and finance. Romney denies that he was speaking about "the Palestinian culture, or the decisions made in their economy," even while doubling down on his thesis about culture determining economic vitality. But his remarks in Jerusalem were widely condemned: China's state news agency warned that Romney's comments were "likely to worsen the already tense Mideast situation, and even reignite a war between Palestinians and Israelis," and senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official Alon Leil said: "We need the U.S. as an honest broker for peace, between us and the Palestinians.... There are no signs that Romney understands it." If Romney wins in November, would he be able to pursue the two-state solution U.S. presidents have tried to broker for decades?
Romney would be disastrous for Mideast peace: Romney's hawkish rhetoric on Israel and serial insults of Palestinians may have delighted his wealthy, hardline backers, says Douglas Bloomfield at The Jerusalem Post, but it "could prove disastrous should he become president." A two-state solution is the only viable route to a lasting peace, and it's now clear that if a President Romney "decides to pursue Israeli-Palestinian negotiations he will start with a great disadvantage, and that won't be good for the United States or Israel."
"Washington Watch: Is Romney ready for prime time?"
But Romney's right — Palestinians aren't the victims: Romney's apparent sin was to tell a hard truth: Palestinians are their own worst enemies, says Rich Lowry at Real Clear Politics. The Israeli roadblocks are a nuisance, but mostly Palestinians "are crippled by the fact that they live in an illiberal society obsessed with perpetuating the conflict with Israel over almost all else." If they put down their guns and umbrage and listen to Romney instead of insulting him, they might get some peace and prosperity.
Romney is just part of the larger problem: When it comes to Palestinian culture and Israel's best interests, "Romney didn't know what he was talking about," says Thomas Friedman in The New York Times. But he's just part of the bipartisan rightward shift in America's relationship with Israel. The U.S. statesmen who've most advanced Israeli-Arab peace understood "you have to get in the face of both sides," not just kowtow to Israel. If Romney and other U.S. politicians aren't willing to do that, "stay away." Pandering is profitable, but "there are real lives at stake here."
"Why not in Vegas?"