RAMALLAH, (AFP) – The Palestinian premier on Saturday slammed US presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich for belittling the Palestinians as an “invented” people and demanded an apology.
Gingrich, leading in some national polls for the Republican party nomination, made the comments in a Friday interview to be aired with the Jewish Channel satellite television.
Prime minister Salam Fayyad called on Gingrich to apologise for his “vulgar, hurtful and ridiculous remarks”, during a meeting with journalists in the West Bank town of Ramallah.
Gingrich’s characterisation “constituted a totally unacceptable distortion of historical truth”, he said, stressing that in Israel “even the most extremist settlers don’t dare to speak in such a ridiculous manner.”
Fayyad, whose people have controversially applied for UN recognition as a state, insisted: “Our people has been on this land from the beginning. And it is determined to stay until the end.”
In the interview, Gingrich, a former House speaker who has surged in public opinion polls, said: “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 1940’s, and I think it’s tragic.”
Gingrich also declared his world view was “pretty close” to that of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and vowed to take “a much more tougher-minded, and much more honest approach to the Middle East” if elected.