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Romney draws criticism over Palestinian remark

Mitt Romney is drawing sharp criticism over comments he made Monday morning in Israel implying culture contributes to the strength of the Israeli economy over that of the Palestinians.

It was the latest in what Romney's critics have characterized as a series of gaffes since the Republican presidential candidate arrived overseas last Wednesday.

Following the comment, the Obama campaign unloaded on their Republican rival -- after initially holding back on critiquing Romney's foreign trip. Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki charged Monday afternoon that Romney has been "fumbling the foreign policy football from country to country."

She did not reference specifically the Palestinian comment, which came during remarks at a small fundraiser at the King David Hotel.

Romney said: "As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000, and 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 such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality."

Then referencing Harvard professor David Landes's novel "Wealth and Poverty of Nations," he added, "he says if you can 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."

Reports immediately surfaced of a backlash among Palestinian leaders characterizing his words as racist and perpetuating "culture superiority" rhetoric.

The Associated Press quoted senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas saying, "This man doesn't realize that the Palestinian economy cannot reach its potential because there is an Israeli occupation."

The Romney campaign countered, calling the comments "gross mischaracterizations" and arguing the remarks were taken out of context -- since Romney was citing a book.

Romney was taking a page from his own book "No Apology" as well -- page 248 to be exact. "How could Israelis have created a highly developed, technology-based economy while their Palestinian neighbors have not yet even begun to move to an industrialized economy?" Romney wrote.

As he did in his talk, Romney in his book quoted from Landes, saying: "his examination concludes 'culture makes all the difference,' not only when it comes to understanding why great civilizations failed in the past, as described earlier, but also in explaining why differences between nations exist today."

This is not the first time Romney has used this language to compare the strength of Israeli and Palestinian economies -- among those of other nations. As recently as April, the GOP candidate used similar words to compare the economies of Israel and Egypt.

Romney will be making a speech in Warsaw, Poland, on Tuesday before flying back to domestic soil.

Fox News' Ed Henry contributed to this report.