Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said the Palestinians are an "invented" people and the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process is "delusional."
The former Speaker of the House made his comments this week in an interview with cable network The Jewish Channel, which posted excerpts online Friday.
"I believe that the Jewish people have the right to have a state, and I believe that the commitments that were made at a time," Gingrich said when asked whether he considers himself a Zionist. "Remember there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. And I think that we've had an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs, and 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 I think it’s tragic."
Asked about peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, Gringrich said, "I think it's delusional to call it a peace process."
"We have an armed truce with a Palestinian Authority that’s relatively weak. And on its flank is a Hamas authority which may become relatively weak because it can’t deliver anything. But both of which represent an enormous desire to destroy Israel," he said. "Frankly, given their school system and the hatred they teach in their schools, often with money that comes from us through the United Nations, I mean I think there's a lot to think about in terms of how fundamentally you want to change the terms of debate in the region."
He identified his approach to foreign policy as closer to that of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying he believes in a "tough-minded realism."
"I believe that if somebody is firing rockets at you, they are probably not engaged in the peace process. I believe if somebody goes around and says you don’t have a right to exist, they’re probably not prepared to negotiate for peace," he said. "I think if someone says they wanna wipe you out, you should believe them. So I see a much more tougher-minded, and much more honest approach to the Middle East in a Gingrich administration."
Gingrich was also sharply critical of the Obama administration's so-called "evenhanded" approach to dealing with Israel and the Palestinians, saying it's actually "favoring the terrorists."
"If I'm evenhanded between a civil democracy that obeys the rule of law, and a group of terrorists who are firing missiles everyday that's not evenhanded that's favoring the terrorists," Gingrich said. "I think they [the Obama administration] actually lie to themselves, I don't think they lie to the American people, I think they believe the stuff that they say. But is so out of touch with reality."