Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich stood by his comments on Palestine and Israel during the GOP debates in Iowa this weekend. Reuters

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is standing by comments he made last week calling the Palestinians an invented people. This despite an immediate backlash by Arab leaders and the fact that his comments are at odds with many mainstream Israeli views on an independent Palestinian state.

Below, watch Gingrich's comments and response, and read how his rivals for the GOP presidential nomination and leaders abroad have responded.

'He's lost touch with reality'

Remember, there was no Palestine as a state, Gingrich told the Jewish Channel last week in a video clip that soon went viral. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. And I think that we've have invented the Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs and are historically part of the Arab community, and they had the chance to go many places.

Gingrich's comments immediately sparked controversy in the Middle East. A Palestinian legislator said the Republican presidential primary candidate had lost touch with reality, while Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said he was ashamed of Gingrich's ignorance.

From the beginning, our people have been determined to stay on their land, Fayyad told Palestinian news agency Wafa. This, certainly, is denying historical truths.

Even though Arabs have accused Gingrich of a cheap stunt to get Jewish votes, Jewish voters might not respond well to his comments, either.

Most mainstream Israelis support the idea of an independent Palestine alongside Israel, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been a proponent of Palestinian independence as part of a final peace agreement.

It is unlikely that American Jewish voters would have more extreme views than Israelis, who are likely to express uneasiness at Gingrich's view of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks as delusional.

'I'm not a bomb-thrower'

During the Dec. 10 GOP debate in Iowa, Gingrich's rivals took shots at him for his comments about Israel and Palestine. His most notable critics were former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Rep. Ron Paul.

Technically and historically, yes, you know, under the Ottoman Empire the Palestinians didn't have a state, Paul said, saying Gingrich's comments were just stirring up trouble. But neither did Israel have a state then too.

Mitt Romney said Gingrich's comments would only inflame anti-U.S. and anti-Israeli sentiment in the Middle East, creating an extraordinary tumult in Netanyahu's state.

If I'm president of the United States, I will exercise sobriety, care, stability and make sure that I don't say anything like this, Romney said. I'm not a bomb-thrower, rhetorically or literally.

'Factually Correct' and 'Historically True'

Gingrich, however, stood by his comments during the Iowa debate.

Is what I said factually correct? Yes. Is it historically true? Yes, he answered. Are we 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.

Gingrich then went on to evoke Ronald Reagan speech to Mikhail Gorbachev, saying someone ought to have the courage to tell the truth.

Ronald Reagan... went around his entire national security apparatus to call the Soviet Union an evil empire, and... overruled his entire State Department in order to say, 'Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,' Gingrich said in his retort.

Reagan believed the power of truth restated the world and re-framed the world, he finished. I am a Reaganite. I'm proud to be a Reaganite. I will tell the truth, even if it's at the risk of causing some confusion sometimes with the timid.

The Jewish Channel: Newt Gingrich discusses invented Palestinian people:

Gingrich stands by his comments during Republican debate: