Bill Clinton on Palestinian Culture

The former president praised Palestinian industriousness during a visit a Riyadh, saying, "I have never met a poor Palestinian in the United States."

Former president Bill Clinton had a very, very different take from Mitt Romney on Palestinian culture and its impact on Palestinian economic success when he visited Saudi Arabia in the winter of 2011. According to a report in the Arab News:

"Ever since I left office I have tried to stay in touch with my friends in the Palestinian community and continue to press my friends in Israel on the case for peace," Clinton said. "It is a different world than it was 10 years ago when we brought the Palestinians and the Israelis together to strike a peace agreement, but then the underlining realities have not changed; political realities have not changed."

He said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad have done a remarkable job in the West Bank. "It is just an example of what would happen for the Palestinian people if they are given a chance to govern," Clinton said. "Palestinians are a hard-working and an incredible community. They have done remarkably well outside their country. I have never met a poor Palestinian in the United States; every Palestinian I know is a college professor or a doctor."

The problem in Israel, he said, is what happens in multiparty democracies around the world. "If you take a poll today, two-thirds of Israelis will support peace and a peace agreement," Clinton said. "However, it is hard to get an Israeli Parliament that reflects the people's views on this one issue. But we all have to keep pushing."

Clinton's diplomatic skills are not only demonstrably superior to Romney's here, Clinton appears to be using a more up to date understanding of the facts on the ground in the Middle East. Romney's original comments, as he's described them, appear to reflect an analysis of the situation formed during his years as a businessman in the 1980s and 1990s.

(Via National Journal's @mattizcoop.)

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Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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