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Terrorism & Security

From Iran to China, Romney's comments in Israel earn him international criticism

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's remarks have raised international concerns that, if elected, he would bring fresh instability to the world stage.

By Correspondent / July 31, 2012

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney delivers a specch in Jerusalem, Sunday, July 29.

Charles Dharapak/AP

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Correspondent

Tom A. Peter is a journalist based in Kabul, Afghanistan where he covers news and features throughout the country. He has also reported for The Monitor from Iraq, Yemen, Jordan, and throughout the United States.

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Adding to the already loud din of criticism of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney after he said Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, China today said Mr. Romney’s “hawkish remarks” could spark conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

“Romney's remarks totally neglect historical facts and are actually irresponsible if he just meant to appeal to voters at home,” wrote Xinhua, China’s official state news service. “[A]ny words that favor any party to the conflict regardless of history and reality are irresponsible and unfair for Palestinians who are in a less powerful position in the peace talks. They may even result in a much worse situation in this region by intensifying the differences between the two sides.”

China also took issue with Mr. Romney’s claim that he would move the US embassy to Jerusalem, something American officials have long avoided doing because the move would imply Israeli sovereignty of the long contested city.

Romney has been previously criticized for his weakness on foreign policy, but China’s response to his remarks may indicate international concerns that, if elected, the Republican candidate could bring renewed instability to the world stage.

Already, Romney’s remarks have raised ire among Palestinians who have accused him of being racist for saying the economic disparity between Israelis and Palestinians is due to cultural reasons. Comparing the situation to that between the US, Mexico, Chile, and Ecuador, Romney told those gathered at a fundraising event that the gap in the gross domestic product per capita between the two groups was due to cultural reasons, neglecting to mention the economic impact of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.

“If you could learn anything from the economic history of the world it's this: Culture makes all the difference,” said Romney. “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.”

The figures Romney cited also appeared to be at odds with most Western estimates, reports Reuters. Romney said Israelis per capita GDP is $21,000 and Palestinians $10,000, while most other estimates place it closer to $31,400 and $2,900, respectively.

Palestinians were quick to react, with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat calling the remarks “a racist statement that shows a lack of knowledge.” He went on to say, “Everyone knows that the Palestinians cannot reach their full potential given the Israeli restrictions imposed on them.”

Romney’s comments also drew the attention of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who accused the American presidential contender of “kissing the foot” of Israel and asked why he would make “concessions to get some pennies for (his) campaign?” Romney has been firm in his backing of Israel’s alleged efforts to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, reports the Associated Press.

So far, Romney has not sought to amend his remarks, reports The New York Times. His campaign staff did not respond to questions about whether Romney believes Israeli trade restrictions on Palestinian areas has affected economic growth. Meanwhile, the Obama camp has used the opportunity to question Romney’s ability to represent the US in the Middle East in such a way that "American credibility and influence in the Middle East depend on 'us being seen as an honest broker.'”

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