Arabic Media Not Impressed By Romney

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By Joshua Falk

Arab media reacted negatively to Mitt Romney's trip abroad.

"If his performance was any indicator of what he will bring in the event he wins the presidency, we have seen and heard enough to know that he will fail miserably," Octavia Nasr wrote Tuesday in leading Lebanese daily Annahar.

In her column, entitled "Mitt Romney's Failed Attempt at Foreign Diplomacy," Nasr wrote that Romney's trip was in part an attempt to appeal to Jewish voters in swing states like Florida, noting that Romney and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are friends and former colleagues. "It was natural for Romney to plan to visit Israel to improve his chances with Jewish-Americans and evangelicals."

On his seven-day trip, which concluded Tuesday, Romney met with leaders in Great Britain, Israel and Poland.  Nasr portrayed the visits as a series of gaffes:

He has started a discussion about his doubts regarding the country's preparations for hosting the Olympic Games. And in Israel, instead of behaving as presidential candidates are expected and dialoguing with all parties, he played on domestic political tension and put off many Jewish and Arab leaders. Then he offended and angered many by suggesting in a fundraiser in East Jerusalem that Palestinian culture is below Jewish culture.

In the pan-Arab daily newspaper Al-Hayat, columnist Elias Harfouche wrote Tuesday that Romney revealed a lack of understanding of the Israel-Palestine conflict and its history in citing cultural differences as the reason Israelis are more economically successful than Palestinians:

Romney proved that his folly is no match for his brazenness, when he expressed in a speech he made at a campaign fundraiser that the reason for the Israeli economy's success in comparison with the Palestinian economy is first "divine providence" and second "the ability of the Jewish people to be creative in the face of challenges." It is surprising that he made these statements after a day meeting with the president of the Palestinian government Salaam Fayyad who must have explained to Romney that he heads a government that lives on donations and contributions of donor countries, because the land it "governs" is subject to the Israeli occupation, which is the main reason for the Palestinians' economic tragedy, and also their humanitarian and political tragedies.

In a speech in Jerusalem on Sunday, Romney referred to the city as Israel's capital. (The U.S. does not recognize it as such, considering Jerusalem’s final status as subject to negotiations.) His remark sparked the ire of Palestinian journalist Yasser Zaatreh, who expanded the circle of blame.

"We feel disgusted by you and by your country and by your opponent too," Zaatreh tweeted Monday.

(Joshua Falk, an intern at Bloomberg View, recently graduated from Stanford with a degree in Middle Eastern history. Follow him on Twitter.)

Read more breaking commentary from Bloomberg View columnists and editors at the Ticker.

-0- Aug/02/2012 15:49 GMT