US Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney left Israel for Poland Monday with over $1 million more in his campaign war chest than when he arrived, following the first-ever presidential fund-raiser in the country.

Some 47 people attended breakfast at a room in Jerusalem’s King David Hotel with Romney, his wife, and one of his sons, at the price of $50,000 per couple. Romney spoke for some 20 minutes and focused on the economy, both in the US and in Israel.

He then took a couple of questions.

Romney’s wife, Ann, also spoke briefly, and expressed her attachment to Israel.

“As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000 dollars, 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,” Mitt Romney said.

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Citing Harvard professor David Landes’ book The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, Romney attributed the differences to culture, an innovative business culture, and the resilience of the Jewish people.

“I am overwhelmingly impressed with the hand of providence, whenever it chooses to apply itself, and also the greatness of the human spirit, and how individuals who reach for greatness and have purpose above themselves are able to build and accomplish things that could only be done by a species created in the image of God,” Romney said.

“I come to this place, therefore, with a sense of profound humility, as I look around here at great people who’ve accomplished a great thing, and also a sense of spiritual connection, acknowledging the hand of providence in establishing this place and making it a holy city.”

MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List – Ta’al) slammed the presumptive Republican presidential hopeful’s comments, saying they represented a combination of “racism and ignorance,” along with totally ignoring the limitations on “an economy under occupation.”

Romney sat during the breakfast at the head of a Ushaped table with casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who has said he is willing to spend $100 million to defeat US President Barack Obama in the coming elections.

Among others attending the event were New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, New York hedge fund manager Paul Singer, New York lawyer Phil Rosen, New York healthcare venture capitalist Ken Abramowitz, Miami businessman Simon Falic, Detroit developer John Rakolta, Bob Pence – a Virginia based commercial developer – and Lisa Spies, who is Romney’s finance chair.

Marc Zell, co-chairman of Republicans Abroad Israel, pointed out that 15-20 percent of those in the room were American-Israelis.

Abramowitz, who flew in especially for this event and Romney’s speech Sunday evening overlooking the Old City walls, said he did so because “I passionately want Romney elected.”

“If he can take the time out of his busy schedule to come here, I can come and greet him,” said Abramowitz, who has attended a fundraiser a month for Romney for the past 10 months.

Asked if he thought Romney felt an emotional connection to Israel, Abramowitz said he felt the former Massachusetts governor had a warm place in his heart for Israel.

Romney, he said, appreciates Israel from a business perspective, and also has deep respect for America’s allies.

In addition, said Abramowitz, as a Mormon – a religion with only some 14 million adherents around the world, similar to the world’s Jewish population – Romney understands what it is like to be part of a minority religion that has felt religious persecution.

Zell said Monday’s event was the first time either party had held a fund-raiser in Israel.

Under US law, only US citizens or holders of valid Green Cards are allowed to contribute to campaigns.

Zell said both parties were fundraising aggressively overseas, with the Obama campaign having held dinners in numerous countries, including China, Hong Kong and Switzerland.

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