Newt Gingrich and Yasser Arafat.
Newt Gingrich (left) and Yasser Arafat. Photo by Reuters, John Goodman
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A few days after U.S. Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich thrust himself into controversy by declaring that the Palestinians are an "invented" people who want to destroy Israel , a picture of him emerged embracing former Palestinian Yasser Arafat in 1993, when Gingrich was House minority whip.

The Huffington Post published the image on Tuesday, saying it received it from “a political operative who has been working on Palestine-Israel policy for the past 20 years.”

To see the image in the Huffington Post report, click here

On Saturday, Gingrich brushed aside criticism that he had unnecessarily made the Mideast peace process more difficult.

"Is what I said factually true? Yes," Gingrich said during a candidate debate in which he drew applause for asserting that it was time someone spoke the truth about the nature of Israel's struggle with the Palestinians.

The Huffington Post quoted the source, who upon sending the picture said the meeting between Gingrich and Arafat followed a meeting with 20 to 25 House leaders over coffee. "Jotting notes down in a yellow pad, Gingrich used the meeting to pitch Arafat on how best to actually construct a Palestinian state.” The source said that Gingrich told Arafat “'look, here is what I think you need - an economic plan - and here is how it will work.”

Gingrich's remarks to a Jewish cable channel Friday struck at the heart of Palestinian sensitivities about the righteousness of their struggle for an independent state and put him at odds not only with the international community but with many in Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and mainstream Israelis say they support the idea of an independent Palestine alongside Israel as part of a final peace agreement.