Mitt Romney Tuesday evening defended his position on the role of culture in a country's prosperity, writing in the National Review that "culture does matter," after backing away from the argument earlier in the day.
In an op-ed, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee clarified comments he made on Monday at a Jerusalem fundraiser.
"During my recent trip to Israel, I had suggested that the choices a society makes about its culture play a role in creating prosperity, and that the significant disparity between Israeli and Palestinian living standards was powerfully influenced by it," Romney wrote. "In some quarters, that comment became the subject of controversy."
Romney continued: "But what exactly accounts for prosperity if not culture? In the case of the United States, it is a particular kind of culture that has made us the greatest economic power in the history of Earth."
Romney sparked outrage on Monday when he told Jewish donors that Israel's culture is part of what has made Israelis more successful than people in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority.
"As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality," Romney said. He pointed to Israeli culture, as well as the business climate and the "hand of providence" as the "power" behind this economic success.
Palestinian leaders quickly pounced on the comments, characterizing Romney's statement as "racist" and unfounded.
Earlier Tuesday, Romney denied criticizing Palestinian culture and societal choices.
"I'm not speaking about it, did not speak about the Palestinian culture," Romney said during an appearance on Fox News. "I certainly don't intend to address that during my campaign. Instead I will point out that the choices a society makes have a profound impact on the economy and the vitality of the society."
In the National Review op-ed, Romney praised Israel for its success in the face of "improbable odds," saying the country's embrace of democracy has "enabled innovators and entrepreneurs to make the desert bloom."
Romney's op-ed avoided a direct comparison between Israelis and Palestinians.