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Romney says he wasn't talking about Palestinian culture

In an interview with FOX's Carl Cameron before he left Poland, Mitt Romney said that he wasn't talking about culture when discussing Israel and the Palestinian Authority during an fundraiser in Israel on Monday.

"I'm not speaking about it, did not speak about the Palestinian culture or the decisions made in their economy," Romney told Cameron. "That's an interesting topic that perhaps can deserve scholarly analysis, but I actually didn't address that. Certainly don't intend to address that in my campaign. Instead, I will point out that the choices a society makes have a profound impact on the economy and the vitality of that society."

Uriel Sinai / Getty Images

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney delivers a speech outside the Old City on July 29 in Jerusalem, Israel.

But according to even the transcript that the Romney campaign released of the fundraiser, Romney did specifically refer to culture when comparing per-capita GDP between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Here's what Romney said:

“I was thinking this morning as I prepared to come into this room of a discussion I had across the country in the United States about my perceptions about differences between countries. And as you come here and you see the GDP per capita for instance in Israel, which is about 21,000 dollars, and you compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority which is more like 10,000 dollars per capita, you notice a dramatic, stark difference in economic vitality. And that is also between other countries that are near or next to each other. Chile and Ecuador, Mexico and the United States."

Romney added:

"I noted that part of my interest when I used to be in the world of business is I would travel to different countries was to understand why there were such enormous disparities in the economic success of various countries. I read a number of books on the topic. One, that is widely acclaimed, is by someone named Jared Diamond called ‘Guns, Germs and Steel,’ which basically says the physical characteristics of the land account for the differences in the success of the people that live there. There is iron ore on the land and so forth. And you look at Israel and you say you have a hard time suggesting that all of the natural resources on the land could account for all the accomplishment of the people here. And likewise, other nations that are next door to each other have very similar, in some cases, geographic elements."

He concluded: 

"But then there was a book written by a former Harvard professor named ‘The Wealth and Poverty of Nations.’ And in this book Dr. Landes describes differences that have existed -- particularly among the great civilizations that grew and why they grew and why they became great and those that declined and why they declined. And after about 500 pages of this lifelong analysis -- this had been his study for his entire life -- and he’s in his early 70s at this point, he says this, he says, if you could 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."

Also in the same FOX interview, Romney "accused reporters of trivializing the substance of his trip and trying to divert attention from President Obama’s stewardship of the economy," National Journal reports.

Said Romney: "I realize that there will be some that in the Fourth Estate, or in whatever estate, who are far more interested in finding something to write about that is unrelated to the economy, to geo-politics, to the threat of war, to the reality of conflict in Afghanistan today, to nuclearization of Iran. They'll instead try to find anything else to divert from the fact that these last four years have been tough for our country."