The current contest among Republican hopefuls for the highest office in the United States has been characterized by unconstrained and sometimes spontaneous remarks by the candidates, as they vie with one another and with the pressure of the campaign. Among the leaders in the hard fought contest, Newt Gingrich,secure with a wide range of Washington experience, may have just made one such revealing outburst. On the other hand, his speaking may have been planned and thought out, an indication of his feelings on a crucial issue. Newt’s statement last week denying the legitimacy of Palestine among nations comes at a time when the world is a hotbed of religious and culture antipathy.
If indeed the ongoing ill will between Christians, Jews, and the West becomes global, possibly nuclear, the state of Israel may become the stage for warfare. Much of the world, in North Africa and in the East is moving inexorably toward Muslim domination. Egypt is falling to the Muslim Brotherhood. Iran is gaining support in its quest for nuclear weapons. The Muslims are joining forces in what may become traditional warfare and far-reaching terrorism. While America and the West try in vain to implement solutions to the war over the holy shrines, and holy regions in Israel/Palestine, the area continues to be the center of Muslim anti-Western attention.
On Friday, December 9, the leading contender for the Republican run at the presidency, Newt Gingrich, former Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, speaking on the Jewish Cable Channel, made this statement: “Remember there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. I think we have an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs…” Gingrich continued, making the claim that the Palestinian Authority shares with the terrorist network, Hamas, “an enormous desire to destroy Israel.”
Many viewed the candidate’s remarks as inflammatory; an attempt to win the Jewish and the Ecumenical Christian vote. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad (photo), described the comments as ridiculous and racist, and called for an apology.
Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu at this writing had not made a statement regarding the remarks. Netanyahu is in support of a peace agreement involving the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.
The former Israeli ambassador to Washington, Zalman Shoval, said the former speaker’s comments were factually true, but politically irrelevant. “Whether the Palestinians existed before or not is neither here nor there” he stated. “Palestinian Arabs for the last 50 or 60 years have defined themselves as a separate national unity. Their aspiration to a national unity and self-governance is the fact we should be dealing with.” Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat used the phrase “an incitement to terror” in demonizing the politician’s remarks; “These statements of Gingrich’s will be the ammunitions and weapons of the Bin Ladens and the extremists for a long, long time.”
In what many would maintain was the most emotionally packed and spontaneous segment of the Iowa debate of the Republican contenders on Saturday night, Mitt Romney was outspoken on the issue of the remarks. He called the Gingrich declaration a mistake. He said the comment would “create further obstacles in future negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.” Romney said that Gingrich was “Bomb throwing.” Romney, speaking through his staff, has called Mr. Gingrich a “loose cannon.”
Republican candidate Mitt Romney mentioned having met with Prime Minister Netanyahu, as did several on the stage Saturday evening, . Romney was alive with fervor when he said, “If Bibi Netanyahu wants to say what you (Gingrich) said, let him say that. But our allies, the people of Israel, should be able to take their own positions,” “I’m not a bomb thrower. Rhetorically or literally.”
Newt Gingrich defended his position. “Is what I said factually correct? Yes. Is it factually true? Yes,” “[It’s] time for somebody to have the guts to stand up and say, ‘Enough lying about the Middle East.’”
Newt Gingrich has been a professor of history, and is a knowledgeable historian. Ron Paul is also
well versed in history. Ron Paul, still well in the running for the Republican nomination was true to his stated Libertarian beliefs, saying that under the Ottoman Empire neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians had an official state. He accused Gingrich of “stirring up trouble”, and took the position that nations outside of America should resolve their dilemmas for themselves. America, he reiterated, should not continue to be the “policeman of the world.” Paul has consistently been a critic of Israeli actions against Palestinians, and a critic of American unqualified support of Israel.