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Gingrich's focus is on foreign policy issues in Florida

January 27, 2012|By Seema Mehta
  • Newt Gingrich speaks at a Republican Jewish Coalition rally in Delray Beach, Fla.
Newt Gingrich speaks at a Republican Jewish Coalition rally in Delray Beach,… (Stan Honda / AFP/Getty Images )

Reporting from Delray Beach, Fla. — Courting two critical constituencies in the days before the Florida primary, Newt Gingrich reached out to Jewish and Latino voters on Friday and pledged to chart a more aggressive course in the Middle East and Latin America.

Addressing a mostly white-haired crowd at the Republican Jewish Coalition in Delray Beach, Gingrich said the United States and Israel would not be safe until Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was no longer in power in Iran.

"I believe we need a profoundly new approach to the Middle East," he said. "The fact is, we are faced with enemies who would enjoy killing us."

Gingrich reiterated the controversial comments he made last year that there was no historical Palestinian "right of return."

"There is no legitimate historical question about the rights of Jews to be in  Israel," Gingrich said, to an enthusiastic response. "A true peace process can begin the morning the Palestinians accept two things:  Israel does have the right to exist, and there will be no right to return because it doesn't exist. It was a political argument designed to destroy Israel."

Answering questions from the audience, Gingrich offered several statements dear to the group, including pledging to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and saying that if he were president, he would seek to review the full documents behind the case of imprisoned Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.

"Depending on what I find, I would be very willing to consider a pardon or at least parole," he said. "But I would not do it till I had access to all the documents."

In Miami earlier in the day, Gingrich wooed Latinos at two events and announced the support of a number of Latino leaders, including Rosario Marin, the U.S. treasurer under President George W. Bush.

Speaking to several hundred people at the Hispanic Leadership Network conference, Gingrich called for a broad overhaul of the U.S. policy in Latin America and announced his support for just-introduced legislation that would allow children brought into the country illegally to earn citizenship by joining the military.

In policy-laden addresses, the former House speaker called for changing the strategies for dealing with several nations in the region, saying that past administrations failed to pay it enough attention.

"It is a region all too often neglected by the United States leadership," he told reporters before addressing the conference. "The fact is that we need to have, both for Latino Americans in the United States and for all of Latin America, a much more positive response to where we are today."

In Venezuela, he said, he would start an aggressive nonmilitary effort to replace Hugo Chavez. In Cuba, he said, he would replicate the strategy President Reagan, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II used against Soviet Union, using economic, moral and other means to put pressure on the nation, while supporting the revolutionaries. He said it was key to send a message that there would be no dictatorship once Castro is gone, and that those who are among the oppressors must be on notice that they will be held accountable for their actions once regime change occurs.

Gingrich faulted President Obama for paying more attention to the uprising taking place in the Middle East than the potential for a similar uprising 90 miles off Florida's coast.

"He can't bring himself to look south," Gingrich said. "I would like a Cuban spring in 2013 to help the people of Cuba liberate."

He said he supported the right of the people of Puerto Rico to hold a referendum on whether they wanted to seek statehood, but he declined to offer guidance.

"The people of Puerto Rico have got to decide their future," he said.  "But I will not tell them what decision to make."

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