Gingrich: Obama's Middle East plan "dangerous"

Newt Gingrich on CBS' "Face the Nation," May 22, 2011.

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich on Sunday lambasted President Obama's recent speech on foreign policy in the Middle East, characterizing initiatives he outlined as "extraordinarily dangerous" and "a disaster."

In an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation," Gingrich argued that Mr. Obama's call for Israel to revert to its 1967 borders as part of a two-state solution with Palestine granted Hamas "moral equivalency and "would be an act of suicide for Israel."

"The idea that somehow we're supposed to be neutral between Hamas and Israel is fundamentally flawed," Gingrich told CBS' Bob Schieffer. "I do not believe we should have any pressure on Israel as long as Hamas' policy is the destruction of Israel."

President Obama, in calling for the 1967 lines, endorsed a key Palestinian demand for the borders of its future state and prodded Israel to accept the idea that it cannot have a truly peaceful nation predicated on "permanent occupation."

"A president who can't control his own border probably shouldn't lecture Israel about their border," Gingrich offered.

While Mr. Obama's speech represents a victory of sorts for Palestinian leaders, the president warned of major challenges for Palestinians in the process of negotiating such a compromise, and rejected their recent push for U.N. recognition of a state in the West Bank. He also emphasized that "Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection."

Gingrich, however, argued that Mr. Obama was taking the wrong approach entirely on the issue.

"The president talks about peace when he ought to be insisting that we cut off all aid to Hamas, and isolate Hamas as long as it is a terrorist organization trying to destroy an entire people," he said. "I mean, I really think we have to get over this moral equivalence thing. There is no moral equivalence between a democratic society and a terrorist group."

[Gingrich is referring to U.S. aid to the Palestinian government which, with the recent accord signed between the moderate Fatah and the Islamist Hamas factions to join their rival governments - has led some to argue that America is now funding Hamas, labeled a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.]

Gingrich also blasted Mr. Obama's call for Syrian President Bashar Assad to lead his country to democracy or "get out of the way," arguing that Mr. Obama "seems to be going around picking places to make large pronouncements with small effect.

"I think we need a fundamental reassessment of our policy in the whole region," Gingrich said. "When we give the Pakistanis $20 billion in aid since 9/11 and we learned that bin Laden was not hiding in a cave in the mountains... that should raise very profound questions about what's going on and how little do we understand the region. When you look at Christians being driven out of Iraq and you look at churches being burned in Egypt, I think you really need a much more honest and rigorous appraisal of what's happening in the region."

When asked about recent inconsistencies with his own foreign policy positions, however - particularly with regard to Libya, on which matter Gingrich appeared to completely change his position over the course of 16 days - the former House Speaker argued that he was merely responding to Mr. Obama's "zig-zags" in policy.

"As the president zig-zags, as an analyst I was trying to respond to the moment that he's zig-zagging," Gingrich said.

Gingrich maintained that Mr. Obama's policies in Libya were poorly thought out and ultimately ineffective.

"They had no plan. They had no ideas. The no-fly zone was a joke. Qaddafi wasn't being threatened," he argued, of U.N. action in Libya. "If you're [Syrian President] Assad watching Qaddafi, why do you care what the president of the United States says? Because the president of the United States has been remarkably ineffective in Libya."

Gingrich says he stands by a statement he made in February arguing that the U.S. should have responded to the situation in Libya through "indirect means, covert operations and our allies in the region," instead of getting directly involved.

"But the president changed the rules," Gingrich said. "With no planning, with no preparation, on March 3 he staked the position of the United States that Qaddafi must go - and then did nothing to make sure that Qaddafi went except wasted a lot of money and had Americans fecklessly running around not being effective."