Republican candidates
Republican presidential candidates before a debate in Michigan, November 2011. Photo by AP
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The issue of Israel inevitably played a role the Republican debate held in Des Moines, Iowa on Saturday night. 

Less than a month before the Iowa caucuses, presidential hopefuls took off their gloves, focusing their attacks mainly on the current frontrunner, former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, on every possible issue, from his proposal for lunar colonies to his past marital infidelity.

The Palestinian "invented people" was just one small part of the almost two hour show - but it was worth watching.

Asked to comment on Gingrich's recent remarks in which he called the Palestinians an "invented people", Rep. Ron Paul said he doesn't believe Palestinians are "invented people" ("Israel didn't have state then too", he said), adding that meddling in the region causes problems, and that the people of the region should deal with their troubles.

Gingrich stayed on the crusade path, declaring that "somebody ought to have the courage to tell the truth", and there is not much difference between Fatah and Hamas, saying also that "The Palestinian Authority's ambassador to India (Adli Sadeq) last month said there is no difference between Fatah and Hamas: we both agree Israel has no right to exist.'' Later on, he added that "Reagan believed in power of truth, and I am Reaganite."

Mitt Romney replied that he "happens to agree with most of what [Gingrich] said", except for the "invented people", stressing that "this was a mistake on the [Gingrich's] part, I think [Gingrich] would suggest that as well".

Romney proposed a full partnership approach to Israel.

"We shouldn't jump ahead of Bibi Netanyahu. We stand with them link arms with them. If we disagree we do it in private. We don't negotiate for Israeli people. We shouldn't throw incendiary words into the boiling pot".

Romney went on to say that he's known Netanyahu a long time.

"We worked together at Boston Consulting Group," Romney said. "The last thing Netanyahu needs to have not just a person who's an historian but somebody who is also running for president of the United States stand up and say things that create extraordinary tumult in his neighborhood. If I'm President of the United States, I will exercise sobriety, care, stability and make sure that in a setting like this, anything I say that can affect a place with rockets going in, with people dying, I don't do anything that would harm that process. And therefore, before I made a statement of that nature, I get on the phone to my friend Bibi Netanyahu and say, would it help if I said this? What would you like me to do? Let's work together because we're partners. I'm not a bomb thrower. Rhetorically or literally.”

Texas Governor Rick Perry tried to downplay the "invented people" issue that drew the ire of the Palestinian leadership, calling Gingrich's comments a "minor issue blown way out of proportion."

Rep. Michele Bachmann attacked Palestinian incitement, asking "How do you find peace when you teach your kids to hate Jews?" She said she asked the Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad about the school textbooks that includes incitement. "He said we don't do it anymore", Bachmann said. "I asked him to send me the new textbooks. I checked my email, he still didn't send it."

Former Senator Rick Santorum repeated his remarks from earlier this month that "the West Bank is Israeli land."