Having stirred outrage by calling Palestinians an “invented people,” in last night’s GOP presidential debate New Gingrich went even further by saying, “these people are terrorists.”
I guess if he becomes president, at least the United States will have to abandon the pretense that it has any role as a mediator between Israelis and Palestinians.
In a conference call organized by the National Council of Young Israel and broadcast on The Yeshiva World News on Friday, Gingrich took a question from Mort Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America.
Klein is more forthright than some of Gingrich’s other Zionist friends might be — he unequivocally opposes a two-state solution.
Last year he said: “As much as we all want Israel to have peace with the Arabs, Israel can and will survive and thrive without it — as they have since 1948.”
Israel doesn’t need peace — this is the conviction that explains the Israeli intransigence that long ago turned the so-called peace process into a charade.
What those who don’t believe in peace do believe in, is the need for the United States to ensure that Israel maintains its “qualitative military edge” — a commitment that the Obama administration has supported even more strongly than its predecessors.
A nuclear-armed Iran would undermine Israel’s military hegemony in the Middle East and so many of Israel’s supporters are willing to back another war — usually on the pretext that it would prevent a second holocaust — rather than tolerate a significant shift in the regional balance of power.
In spite of the hysterical campaign propaganda that some American politicians are now using, “[f]ew in Netanyahu’s inner circle believe that Iran has any short-term plans to drop a nuclear weapon on Tel Aviv, should it find a means to deliver it,” according to Netanyahu confidant, Jeffery Goldberg.
Klein’s question for Gingrich was on the expansion of settlements, but the strategic perspective they share is that Israel can continue to exist and prosper in a permanent state of war. From that perspective, the two most important features of the relationship between Israel and the United States are that the U.S. continues to maintain a steady flow of military aid and it remains willing to engage in wars that Israel cannot fight alone. It comes down to blood and money.
Note too that a necessary condition that helps ensure that Americans will acquiesce in fulfilling this need is that we must also share the Zionist faith in the sustainability of permanent war.
The unshakable bond that unites Israel and the United States — a bond that in American politics has become an object of cultish devotion — is an absolute faith in war. Perhaps the only thing that will be able to shake that faith will be economic ruin.
Klein: What is your position about the right of Jews to live in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] and the right of Jews to live in communities there at this present time?
Gingrich: Well, it depends on where exactly you define the boundaries. I do not oppose any development in the [Israeli occupied] areas, because I think that’s part of the negotiating process. To the degree that the Palestinians want to stop the developments they need to reach a deal in which they recognize the right of Israel to exist… As long as they are waging war on Israel, they are in no position to complain about developments. I think the whole peace process has been absurd and has created a psychologically almost impossible position for the average person because once you say there’s a peace process you wonder why the Israelis aren’t being more forthcoming. But if you say, look, we’re still in the middle of a war. They’re still trying to destroy the country — they’re still firing rockets, they still have terrorists coming in — then you all of a sudden understand what the real situation on the ground is, and in that setting, why would the Israelis slow down in maximizing their net bargaining advantage?
In other words, settlement expansion is a bargaining tool and thus the more Israelis there are living in the West Bank, the better Israel’s negotiating position.
As a Palestinian negotiator once said, this is like trying to divide a pizza with someone who is intent on eating the whole pie before it gets divided.
The Washington Post reports on responses to Gingrich’s claim that the Palestinians are an “invented people”:
Michigan Sen. Carl Levin sharply criticized Gingrich’s comments as cynical attempts to curry support with Jewish voters and unhelpful to the peace process.
“The vast majority of American Jews (including this one) and the Israeli Government itself are committed to a two-state solution in which Israelis and Palestinians live side-by-side as neighbors and in peace,” Levin said in a statement. “Gingrich offered no solutions — just a can of gasoline and a match.”
[Hanan] Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation Executive Committee, said Gingrich’s remarks harked back to days when the Palestinians’ existence as a people was denied by Israelis such as Golda Meir, prime minister from 1969 to 1974.
“It is certainly regressive,” she said. “This is certainly an invitation to further conflict rather than any contribution to peace.”
“This proves that in the hysterical atmosphere of American elections, people lose all touch with reality and make not just irresponsible and dangerous statements, but also very racist comments that betray not just their own ignorance but an unforgivable bias,” she said.
Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said the Gingrich remarks “were grave comments that represented an incitement for ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians.”