Diplomacy, Bain Style, Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Jul 31 2012 @ 12:32pm

John Cassidy counters Romney’s tone-deaf take on the economic gulf between Israelis and Palestinians:

Almost all outside observers have acknowledged that continued military occupation is one of the things stalling economic development in the Palestinian territories. In a lengthy report issued just last week, the World Bank said that “the removal of Israeli restrictions on access to markets and to natural resources continues to be a prerequisite for the expansion of the Palestinian private sector.”

Bernard Avishai, a former management consultant in Boston, is on the same page:

Palestine therefore desperately needs to expand its private sector, which [Romney] should encourage. But it cannot.

Palestinian banks have been unable to lend more than about $3 billion to credit-worthy business plans. For when you look at all of the things an ordinary businessperson takes for granted—mobility, access to markets, talent, suppliers and financial services—you see the frustrating effects of an occupation designed to advance the settlers, not Palestinian development. Problems of mobility are most widely reported: over 60 percent of land in the West Bank is so-called Area C—controlled by the Israeli army to secure Israeli settlements, but turning Palestinian cities into economic islands. Try growing a supermarket chain when your just-in-time logistics system has to deal with 600 roadblocks; try planning meetings to open a new store.

But Romney wants to increase those roadblocks and settlements in line with his billionaire bank-roller, Adelson. Then he can criticize Palestinian culture all the more powerfully. Meanwhile, Charles C. W. Cooke takes umbrage over the “racism” charged being tossed at Romney:

In fact, he went out of his way to forward a thesis that relied upon cultural and institutional differences and tied them to varying levels of accomplishment…. Contra the fashionable conceits of our post-modern zeitgeist, some cultures are in fact better than others. (The Left selectively knows this, too: Just ask a progressive about how women and homosexuals are treated in Saudi Arabia and their cultural equivalence falls apart in a matter of seconds.)

The “racism” charge was indeed lame, even though the obliviousness toward the Palestinians’ plight was cringe-inducing. All Romney needed to do was point to the stark contrast between Israel and the Arab world as a whole, which is damning enough. Instead he needlessly alienates an entire people, the second in a row. But the important new fact we have learned from the trip is that Romney appears to be interested in foreign policy only insofar as it can help him domestically. He clearly has no intention of being an honest broker in the Middle East, and has just told the world that. Whatever the Likud wants it will get under Romney. Because it will keep Romney’s Christianist base from getting too restive. A reader adds:

It seems to me that Romney’s comments about the wealth of Israelis relative to Palestinians isn’t just problematic in its stereotype of Palestinians. I can’t think of many politicians who would give a speech saying essentially “Jews are good at making money.”

Previous Dish on Mitt’s dismal diplomatic skills here.