Gingrich under fire for 'invented' Palestinians jab



WASHINGTON, Emmanuel Parisse- Leading Republican White House contender Newt Gingrich has sparked outrage by saying the Palestinians are an "invented" people, which seemed to call into question long-held US policy on statehood.
Gingrich's comments were the most hawkish to date from any Republican vying to take on President Barack Obama in November 2012's national election, and came as his rivals upped the bidding to gain key support from Jewish voters.



Gingrich under fire for 'invented' Palestinians jab
In a sign he could abandon the US position on a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians, Gingrich said the Jewish people had the right to a state, but did not confirm if Palestinians should have the same privilege.
"Remember there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire," Gingrich told The Jewish Channel in an interview released on Friday.
"We've had an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs, and were historically part of the Arab community," he said.
"They had a chance to go many places. And for a variety of political reasons, we have sustained this war against Israel now since the 1940s, and I think it's tragic," the candidate said.
Republicans aiming for the presidency have declared an unshakable commitment to Israel, while criticizing Obama's policy toward the Jewish state.
But Gingrich's campaign was later forced to backtrack and a statement was issued that said the candidate did in fact favor the same two-state solution espoused by Obama and previous US presidents.
"Gingrich supports a negotiated peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians," spokesman R. C. Hammond said, "which will necessarily include agreement between Israel and the Palestinians over the borders of a Palestinian state."
"To understand what is being proposed and negotiated, you have to understand decades of complex history -- which is exactly what Gingrich was referencing during the recent interview with Jewish TV."
Outraged Palestinian officials, however, urged the former US House speaker to apologize for his "vulgar, hurtful and ridiculous remarks."
His characterization of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict "constituted a totally unacceptable distortion of historical truth," Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad said Saturday, stressing that in Israel "even the most extremist settlers don't dare to speak in such a ridiculous manner."
And American Task Force on Palestine spokesman Hussein Ibish was quick to point out that "there was no Israel and no such thing as an 'Israeli people' before 1948," when the Jewish state was established.
While Jewish voters account for a very small portion of the electorate, they play an important role in pivotal states such as Florida and delegate-rich Pennsylvania that are key to the presidential nominating process.
Earlier in the week, Gingrich told a Jewish forum that if he won the Republican nomination to take on Obama he would ask former George W. Bush UN envoy John Bolton to be his secretary of state. Bolton is known for his virulent defense of Israel.
At that same Republican Jewish Coalition forum, Gingrich's main rival for the nomination, Mitt Romney, said he would visit Washington's close ally on his first trip as president, and claimed that Obama had "chastened" Israel.
Republican White House hopeful Michele Bachmann meanwhile joined Gingrich in saying she would move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, to which both Israel and Palestinians lay claim.
In the interview with Jewish TV, Gingrich also charged that the Palestinian Authority shares the militant Islamist Hamas movement's "enormous desire to destroy Israel."
Viewed in the West as far more moderate than Hamas, the Palestinian Authority formally recognizes Israel's right to exist.
Gingrich also declared his world view was "pretty close" to that of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and vowed to take "a much more tougher-minded, and much more honest approach to the Middle East" if elected.
Leading Democratic Senator Carl Levin said Gingrich's comments offered "no solutions -- just a can of gasoline and a match."
"The vast majority of American Jews (including this one) and the Israeli government itself are committed to a two-state solution in which Israelis and Palestinians live side-by-side as neighbors and in peace," Levin said.
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Sunday, December 11th 2011
Emmanuel Parisse
           


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