Newt Gingrich is a fat target for everyone. So easy to hit. He makes the others in the race jump up, down and sometimes leap sideways, like it or not. He shakes things up. He forces voters to look differently at things they thought they already understood, lulled by habit rather than thought. That may not be the ultimate role for a leader of the Western world, but for now he's the pause that refreshes.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in his relationship to the Jews. When he said the Palestinians are "an invented people," he was speaking not as a politician but as a historian, drawing a strong contrast with the Israelis, whose 3,000-year-old culture ties them to each other and to the land they inhabit.
There's room to argue about how most of the nations of the Middle East (and elsewhere) established their national boundaries. But in his offhand remark about the Palestinians, Newt by implication put in historic perspective the call for a Palestinian state. This was also a call to look again at Israel, to remind the world of its history and the outrageous and destructive behavior of its Arab neighbors who refuse to recognize Israel's long history and its links to the land -- and its right to exist there.
In contrast, "Palestine" was a region, like New England, neither a state nor a people in a fixed place. Until recently, no one talked about a Palestinian state. That came in 1964 with the creation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which was, as David Horowitz reminds us in FrontPage magazine, "engineered by the KGB and the Jew-hating dictator of Egypt, Gamal Abdel Nasser."
Newt reinforced the accuracy of his observation at the recent Republican debate in Iowa, putting it in a contemporary political perspective.
"We are in a situation where every day rockets are fired into Israel while the United States -- the current administration -- tries to pressure the Israelis into a peace process," he said. "It's fundamentally the time for somebody to have the guts to say, 'Enough lying about the Middle East.'"
Newt's appreciative understanding of the plight of Israel forces reflection. While Mitt Romney says he agrees with this perception of the terrorism that Israel confronts, he considers Newt's words "incendiary" in a part of the world that is already a "boiling pot." Newt's robust language stands in stark contrast to President Obama's sluggish rhetoric in support of Israel, and will likely rally the religious evangelicals in Iowa, who are among Israel's best friends and strongest supporters.
It's not that Newt is against a negotiated peace settlement, but as one of his spokesmen says, "You have to understand decades of complex history." That's exactly what the Obama administration lacks.