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Gingrich says Palestianians are an ‘invented’ people

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Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich said in a cable television interview that Palestininans are an “invented” people with no apparent right to their own state, a rejection of a decade of bipartisan U.S. foreign policy calling for an independent Palestinian state. Alex Wong GETTY IMAGES House Newt Gingrich (R-GA) speaks during the Republican Jewish Coalition 2012 Presidential Candidates Forum December 7, 2011 at Ronald Reagan Building and International Center in Washington, DC.

The interview, which was taped in Washington Wednesday and will be broadcast on The Jewish Channel Monday, was first reported by Politico (see video clip after the jump).

In the interview, Gingrich was asked if he is a Zionist, and he responded:

“Remember, there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. 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.”

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Gingrich’s comments are sure to inflame Arabs but may also have repercussions among Jews who support the policy, begun by former president George W. Bush and continued by President Obama, of calling for a separate Palestinian state.

“It was definitely a surprise,” said Steven I. Weiss, who conducted the interview with Gingrich for The Jewish Channel. “It’s a comment I’ve heard before because I’ve covered the far right in the Jewish community and the pro-Israel community. But I was surprised to hear a mainstream Republican figure say it, and I’ve tried to research to find other mainstream Republican figures who said it. I’ve yet to find that.”

Gingrich’s remarks may also feed into a longstanding narrative about him that includes the idea that he says provocative things that excite some of his supporters but leave others worried that he is too volatile to muster the rhetorical discipline to survive the rigors of a presidential campaign.

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