Mitt Romney’s suggestion that Palestinians’ economic troubles can be attributed to an inferior culture and his decision to cancel a pre-scheduled meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas offended many in the region and opened the Republican presidential hopeful to international ridicule and charges of diplomatic incompetence.
Interestingly, Romney’s father George received a far different reception when he ran for president forty-five years earlier and traveled to Israel in December of 1967. Like his son Mitt, George embarked on an international trip to bolster his foreign policy credentials, visiting France, Great Britain, West Germany, Poland, The Soviet Union, Israel, Jordan, Thailand, South Vietnam, Indonesia, and Singapore.
George Romney spent two days visiting Jerusalem and held talks with Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and other government officials, describing his conversations to reporters as “significant.” Then, he crossed over to Jordan and visited a refugee camp, demonstrating that he was far more willing to consider the challenges facing the Palestinian people on his trip abroad. “I have come here to listen, to look and to learn,” he was quoted as saying in the New York Times on December 22, 1967:
As Hannah Gross at the Daily Beast said of Mitt Romney, “If Romney hopes to be viewed as a fair broker of peace between Israelis and Palestinians—a role he must play if he wants to establish a two-state solution—virtually ignoring Palestinians isn’t a strong first step.”