Romney Adviser Defends Candidate's Statements About Palestinian Culture

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A top foreign policy adviser to Mitt Romney on Wednesday defended statements the Republican presidential candidate made in Israel about the cultural differences between Israelis and Palestinians.

"How has terrorism flourished in certain parts of Palestinian society?" Dan Senor asked during an interview Wednesday with NPR's Audie Cornish on All Things Considered. "That is a question we should be asking about certain leaders and certain individuals within the Palestinian territory who glorify violence, who encourage violence, who celebrate terrorists, who name stadiums and streets and monuments after suicide bombers as opposed to naming streets after successful entrepreneurs."

While in Jerusalem this week, Romney was accused of racism by a top Palestinian official for his statement about Israel's culture and what Romney called a "dramatic, stark difference in economic vitality" compared to that of the Palestinians.

Here's how the Los Angeles Times reported the incident:

"Palestinian spokespeople, asked about the remark, initially by the Associated Press and then by other American reporters, reacted angrily, saying Romney had ignored the impact of Israeli government policy, which for years has favored economic development in Jewish areas, and the continued Israeli occupation of parts of the West Bank, which has disrupted commerce and communications in Palestinian areas."

"'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."

"Israel takes these measures for security purposes," Senor told NPR on Wednesday. "I'm not suggesting that the blame lies with Palestinian society writ large, no one is suggesting that. What we are simply saying though is that when you have bad actors within your society who are conducting terrorist attacks against a sovereign nation ... [a] sovereign nation does take measures to defend themselves, which is what the Israelis have done over the years. And there's no question that it has had detrimental economic impact on Palestinian society."

Senor, who advises Romney on foreign policy, dismissed the idea that Romney's comments would prevent him from working with Palestinian leaders if elected president. He pointed to a meeting Romney had with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad during his weeklong foreign trip.

"There are plenty of Palestinian leaders who are taking risks and want to do the right thing, and we should be trying to strengthen them rather than apologize for their adversaries," said Senor.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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