WASHINGTON, Dec. 10 (UPI) -- Newt Gingrich, now one of the leaders in the Republican U.S. presidential race, said the Palestinians have no legitimate claim to a state.
In an interview Friday on the Jewish Channel, Gingrich described the Palestinians as an "invented" people, the Los Angeles Times reported. Gingrich suggested the Balfour Declaration by the British government in 1917 gives Jews a right to an independent state.
"I believe that the commitments that were made at the time -- remember, there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire," Gingrich said. "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."
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the executive committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, said Gingrich showed "ignorance and bigotry," the Times reported. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said the former House speaker needs to do more reading "because all he seems to know about history is the Ottoman period."
U.S. policy in recent decades under both Republican and Democratic presidents has had the goal of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. While some Israelis share Gingrich's views, the country's conservative prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, accepts a two-state solution, at least in principle.