Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Tuesday rejected criticism that he had offended Palestinians with his remarks in Jerusalem about the impact of culture on nations and their economies. "I said nothing in my remarks about the Palestinian culture or the development of their economy," he said in an interview with Fox News.
His comments about what he said - followed by his initial remarks.
Romney's comments Tuesday on Fox News regarding his remarks in Jerusalem about culture:
I said nothing in my remarks about the Palestinian culture or the development of their economy. I said what I've said in my book and what I've said in numerous places across the country - that the choices a nation makes with regards to culture - and I'm talking about does it accept free enterprise, human dignity, human rights, rights for women, a work ethic, does it value education, does it promote entrepreneurialism - all of these choices, broadly speaking, have an enormous impact on the economic vitality and income per capita of a people. I believe that today. I believe that applies across the board. I would presume that people in a wide array of nations, even those that are not affiliated with us in any way, have the same views, that the choices you make culturally, from - do you have democracy, free enterprise, human rights, education, rights for women - these things make a difference in your economy.
(Romney was then asked about the criticism from Palestinian officials)
I'm not speaking about it - and did not speak about - the Palestinian culture or the decisions made in their economy. That's an interesting topic that perhaps could deserve scholarly analysis, but I actually didn't address that, certainly don't intend to address that during my campaign. Instead, I will point out that the choices a society makes have a profound impact on the economy and the vitality of that society.
Romney's comments on Monday in Jerusalem, as released by the Romney campaign:
I was thinking this morning, as I prepared to come into this room, of a discussion I had across the country in the United States about my perceptions about the differences between countries.
And as you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel, which is about $21,000, and you 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 a dramatic, stark difference in economic vitality. And that is also between other countries that are near or next to each other. Chile and Ecuador, Mexico and the United States.
I noted that part of my interest when I used to be in the world of business is I would travel to different countries - was to understand why there were such enormous disparities in the economic success of various countries. I read a number of books on the topic. One that is widely acclaimed is by someone named Jared Diamond called "Guns, Germs and Steel," which basically says the physical characteristics of the land account for the differences in the success of the people that live there. There is iron ore on the land and so forth. And you look at Israel and you say you have a hard time suggesting that all the natural resources on the land could account for all the accomplishment of the people here. And likewise other nations that are next door to each other . very similar, in some cases, geographic outlets.
But then there was a book written by a former Harvard professor named "The Wealth and Poverty of Nations." And in this book Mr. Landis describes differences that have existed - particularly among the great civilizations that grew and why they grew and why they became great and those that declined and why they declined. And after about 500 pages of this lifelong analysis - this had been his study for his entire life - and he's in his early 70s at this point. He says this, he says, if you could 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.
One, I recognize the hand of providence in selecting this place. I'm told in a Sunday school class I attended - my son Tagg was teaching the class. He's not here. I look around to see. Of course he's not here. He was in London. He taught a class in which he was describing the concern on the part of some of the Jews that left Egypt to come to the promised land, that in the promised land was down the River Nile, which would provide the essential water they had enjoyed in Egypt. They came here recognizing they must be relied upon, themselves and the arm of God to provide rain from the sky. And this therefore represented a sign of faith and a show of faith to come here. That this is a people that has long recognized the purpose in this place and in their lives that is greater than themselves and their own particular interests, but a purpose of accomplishing and caring and building and serving.
There's also something very unusual about the people of this place. And Dan Senor - and Dan, I saw him this morning, I don't know where he is, he's probably out twisting somebody's arm - there's Dan Senor, co-author of "Startup Nation," described - if you haven't read the book, you really should - described why it is Israel is the leading nation for start-ups in the world. And why businesses, one after the other, tend to start up in this place. And he goes through some of the cultural elements that have led Israel to become a nation that has begun so many businesses and so many enterprises."