“Oh my god, this man needs a lot of education,” said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. “What he said about the culture is racism. “The Israeli occupation” is “the reason” for the income disparity, Erekat added.
“Every extremist in the region is going to use what he’s said for ammunition for a long, long time,” Erekat added, referring both to the “culture” remark and Romney’s statement Sunday referring to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, language that departs from the long-standing U.S. position that the final status of the city is a matter for negotiations between the Israelis and Arabs. “This region needs knowledge and wisdom and people who build bridges, not add fuel to the fire of extremism,” he said.
During my recent trip to Israel, I had suggested that the choices a society makes about its culture play a role in creating prosperity, and that the significant disparity between Israeli and Palestinian living standards was powerfully influenced by it. In some quarters, that comment became the subject of controversy.
But what exactly accounts for prosperity if not culture?