Mitt Romney's camp defended remarks Palestinians blasted as offensive and said Romney would say Tuesday U.S.-Polish ties would improve if he were president.
"This is something he has said repeatedly. It's been covered by every news organization that's written about it," Romney campaign chief strategist Stuart Stevens told the Los Angeles Times, after Palestinians criticized a Romney remark at a Jerusalem fundraiser that he saw the "power" of "culture" at work in the large disparity between Israeli and Palestinian living standards.
"This was not in any way an attempt to slight the Palestinians and everyone knows that," Stevens told the newspaper.
Romney -- who said "the hand of providence in selecting this place" was also responsible for Israel's successes -- told donors about a "dramatically stark difference in economic vitality" between Israel and adjacent "areas managed by the Palestinian Authority," saying Israel's per capita gross domestic product was about $21,000, whereas that of Palestinian areas is "more like $10,000."
Israeli per capita GDP was $31,400 last year, while Palestinians' per capita GDP was $1,500 in 2010, an April World Bank report said.
The presumptive GOP presidential nominee said similar disparities were visible "between other countries that are near or next to each other -- Chile and Ecuador, Mexico and the United States."
A number of leading Palestinians said they were outraged by Romney's contrast of Israeli and Palestinian standards of living.
"Oh my god, this man needs a lot of education," Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who negotiated the Oslo Accords with Israel, told the Times. "What he said about the culture is racism."
The "Israeli occupation" is "the reason" for the income disparity, Erekat said.
Palestinian legislator, activist and scholar Hanan Ashrawi, as well as other Palestinians, said essentially the same thing, pointing to their lack of sovereignty and limitations enforced by Israeli military authorities.
"If he checked his facts, he would know why the Palestinians actually have to build an economy when they have no freedom of movement, no human rights, no fundamental freedoms," Ashrawi, the first woman elected to the Palestinian National Council, told The Wall Street Journal.
In the United States, Jennifer Psaki, a spokeswoman for President Barack Obama's re-election campaign, said Romney had "now been to two countries and he's had two countries where he has made a series of fumbles."
Romney seemed to criticize Britain's preparations for hosting the Summer Olympic Games on his trip's first leg, to London.
"He's been fumbling the foreign policy football from country to country," Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One. "And there's a threshold question that he has to answer for the American people, and that's whether he is prepared to be commander-in-chief.
"So as I said, as we look to the past events, we know that this raises some questions about his preparedness," she said. "And we'll see how the rest of the trip goes."
In Warsaw, Poland, Tuesday, Romney planned to deliver a speech, titled "The U.S.-Poland Relationship and the Values of Liberty," praising Poland's relatively robust economic growth and spotlighting how a Romney presidency would strengthen ties with the central European country, his campaign said.
The Polish economy grew 4.3 percent last year but has slowed this year. The country is the only European Union member to avoid the downturn of the global financial crisis, the Journal said.
Romney campaign aides told the Journal they were also fond of Poland's budget story -- that it cut government spending to stem rising deficits, and the economy is still growing.