WASHINGTON - US
Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich thrust himself into
controversy on Friday by declaring that the Palestinians are an
"invented" people who want to destroy Israel.
The former speaker
of the US House of Representatives sided with Israel in its decades-old
dispute with the Palestinians but took it a step further in an interview
with the Jewish Channel.
cable station posted online its interview with Gingrich, who has risen
to the top of Republican polls with voting to start early next year to
pick a nominee to challenge Democratic President Barack Obama in the
November 2012 election.
Gingrich differed with official US policy
that respects the Palestinians as a people deserving of their own state
based on negotiations with Israel.
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"Remember, there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire" until the early 20th century, Gingrich said.
think that we've had an invented Palestinian people who are in fact
Arabs, and who were historically part of the Arab community. And 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 it's
tragic," he said.
Gingrich along with other Republican candidates
are seeking to attract Jewish support by vowing to bolster US ties with
Israel if elected.
Gingrich said he would be willing to consider granting clemency to
Jonathan Jay Pollard, who has been serving a life prison term since 1987
for passing US secrets to Israel. Successive US presidents have refused
Israeli entreaties to free him.
"If we can get to a point where I'm satisfied that there's no national
security threat, and if he's in fact served within the range of people
who've had a similar problem, then I'd be inclined to consider
clemency," Gingrich said.
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