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 House of Representatives predictably sided with Israel in its decades-old dispute with the Palestinians but took it a step further in an interview with the Jewish Channel.
The 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 U.S. policy that respects the Palestinians as a people deserving of their own state based on negotiations with Israel.
"Remember, there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire" until the early 20th century, Gingrich said.
Needless to say, the Palestinian response has been blunt. The Associated Press explores how Mr. Gingrich's comments were interpreted.
"I 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.
Palestinian official Nabil Abu Rdeneh on Saturday described Gingrich's comments as "unfortunate" and called him "ignorant".
Spokesman for Gaza's militant Hamas rulers Fawzi Barhoum says Gingrich displayed "genuine hostility" toward Palestinians.You can review Mr. Gingrich's full answer here:
It will be interesting to see how the other Republican candidates react to these words. On one hand, they want to appear to be in full support of Israel. On the other, they have an opportunity to identify the rapidly rising Gingrich as out of touch (and that's also a polite term).