Friday, December 9, 2011

Gingrich calls Palestinians an ‘invented’ people

Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich said in a cable TV interview that Palestinians are an “invented” people with no apparent right to their own state, a rejection of a decade of bipartisan U.S. foreign policy.

In the interview, which was taped Wednesday in Washington and will be broadcast Monday on The Jewish Channel, Gingrich spoke about his mistrust of Palestinian leaders, his admiration for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his view that the Obama administration is “favoring the terrorists” with its foreign policy.

“Remember, there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire,” Gingrich said. “We have invented the Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs and are historically part of the Arab people, and they had the chance to go many places.”

“For a variety of political reasons,” Gingrich continued, “we have sustained this war against Israel now since the 1940s, and I think it’s tragic.”

Gingrich’s comments, which were first reported by Politico, were met with surprise and dismay by a range of actors on the foreign policy stage, including both Democratic and Republican former diplomats and both Palestinian and Israeli advocates.

Gingrich did more than fan the flames of the already fraught
Arab-Israeli conflict; he challenged long-standing U.S. policy — initiated by Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and continued by President Obama — to encourage the establishment of a separate Palestinian state.

“Besides being factually and historically wrong, this statement is unwise,” said Ghaith al-Omari, executive director of the American Task Force on Palestine and a former adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. “Rather than trying to delegitimize or undermine the narrative of either side, it would be much more productive to work towards a solution that guarantees the security and future of both the Palestinians and the Israelis.”

Elliott Abrams, who was a deputy national security adviser under Bush and is now with the Council on Foreign Relations, said: “There was no Jordan or Syria or Iraq, either, so perhaps he would say they are all invented people as well and also have no right to statehood. Whatever was true then, Palestinian nationalism has grown since 1948, and whether we like it or not, it exists.”

Gingrich’s remarks also fed a long-standing narrative about the former House speaker — that he has a penchant for provocative utterances, exciting some while alienating others.

Gingrich’s chief rival for the Republican presidential nomination, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, has been highlighting that narrative this week, and Gingrich’s latest remarks gave Romney more fodder to continue doing so.

On a call with reporters late Friday, former ambassador Mary Kramer, a Romney supporter, said: “I’m not sure that kind of statement gets us any closer to accomplishing an agenda, and so that’s one of the things that I think makes me a little bit nervous about Speaker Gingrich — that he sometimes makes comments that are open to very broad interpretations.”

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Also, it is time to revisit this video -

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