Republican Presidential Primary front-runner and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich shared his thoughts on Jewish issues and matters relating to Israel in an exclusive interview with The Jewish Channel, America’s Jewish cable station.
Gingrich told The Jewish Channel’s Steven I. Weiss that Palestinians are not a genuine nation, that he identifies closely with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and that he has “a bias in favor of clemency” for jailed Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.
“I think we have had an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs,” Gingrich said, after affirming “I believe that the Jewish people have the right to have a state.” Gingrich went on to suggest that differentiating between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority is not always appropriate, as “both…represent an enormous desire to destroy Israel.” He also specifically criticized PA President Mahmoud Abbas, saying he did not recognize Israel’s right to exist; Abbas has said he won’t recognize Israel as a Jewish State.
Of the Oslo Peace Accords, which Gingrich helped shape in Congress in 1994 to require America to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, among other things, the candidate declared “I think it’s delusional to call it a peace process.” Responding to the approach of “evenhandedness” advocated by President Barack Obama, Gingrich retorted, “Right, but if I’m evenhanded between a civilian democracy that obeys the rule of law and a group of terrorists that are firing missiles everyday, that’s not even handed, that’s favoring the terrorists.”
Gingrich was also highly critical of the Obama administration’s diplomacy in the Middle East amid recent turmoil, declaring “I think we are much more likely to see an Arab winter than an Arab spring.” The former congressman also decried the number of Islamist seats won in the recent Egyptian elections as indicative of deeper problems in the region.
As to whom he agrees with, Gingrich said “I see myself as in many ways being pretty close to Bibi Netanyahu in thinking about the dangers of the world,” adding “Bibi’s a really tough guy, and he’s a guy who puts Israel’s security first; he also happens to be a free-market guy and someone who has made the entrepreneurial boom so successful.”
Addressing the topic of jailed Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, Gingrich announced he has assembled a “working group” that is currently “studying” the issue, and that “I have a bias in favor of clemency” in part because “he has served a very long time.” He said that if elected president, “I would appoint a very small panel that would be very willing to look at the facts.” He noted, however, that past presidents had reversed an earlier willingness to release Pollard and that “there’s something there that I don’t know as a non-president, and I’d want to be thoroughly briefed” before making a decision. “If we can get to a point where I’m satisfied that there’s no national security threat, and if he’s in fact servied within the range of people who’ve had a similar problem, then I’d be inclined to consider clemency.”
The full interview with Gingrich can be viewed on The Jewish Channel, which is available on Comcast, iO Optimum, Verizon FiOS, Time Warner Cable, Cox Cable, RCN, Bright House Networks, and Frontier.