Melissa Harris-Perry | March 17, 2013
>>> good morning. i'm joy reid filling in for melissa harris-perry. first this morning, an update on the lead story from yesterday's program. in an unexpected turn of events in steubenville, ohio, where two teen boys stand accused of assaulting a 16-year-old girl, both cases wrapped their arguments. we expect a ruling from judge thomas lipps momeshortly. this case has been marked by small town uproar and demonstrations and national attention fueled by evidence that was made public by a social media . as soon as we have the verdict from judge lipps, we will bring you in that news.
>>> until then, we bring you the president's trip to israel . this could be the largest photo op in the year when he visited the west bank . the photograph op is a time honored civic tradition. it is calculated to show a leader in his or her best light. a cynic would not call it much of an opportunity, because the photo op is a staged event cleverly, or not cleverly described as news. photo op was coined by the nixon administration . president george herbert walker bush was said to describe a photo session as a modified limited photo op sans statement. the opportunity to be photographed under favorable conditions is key. sometimes the opportunity the press corps is being given to capture as people is more about the event. bigger than the individual photos. sometimes a group of leaders willing to seen together and have a picture snapped is what makes an indelible mark on history. in 1979 , the carter administration managed it put together this photo opportunity with sadat and beghan. israel ended 30 years of war through a peace treaty brought together by carter. years later, bill clinton sought to reenact. israeli prime minister took the hand of yasser arafat . as president clinton said at the time, it was the peace at the time. president obama will have a handshake between the leaders, we know this trip will not have that kind of photo finish . from the looks of the itinerary, it will be tourism more than diplomacy. the tour is filled with stops at some of the popular destinations. the church of the nativity in bethlehem. of course, he will meet with president peretz and benjamin netanyahu . he will spend time with the authority president abbas. arguably, it has been a long time since the president has directly approached the issue of israeli-palestinian peace. this expedition is more exploratory. as president obama told channel tv 2 this week, he plans to do a lot of listening this week.
>> i intend to meet with fayad and to hear from them what is their strategy and their vision. where do they think this should go.
>> in fact, the president's itinerary will skip some issues. the white house has confirmed the first visit to israel will not be to present a middle east plan. some may call it a lost opportunity, but that is perhaps a good thing. perhaps this is the right strategy for the united states in the moment. perhaps the way forward for a new peace is without the united states leading the charge. at the table with me is analyst and contributor raula. and former u.s. congress member patrick murphy and david harris . thank you for being here, first of all. i want to find out if you agree. maybe the president is trying to be more tourist than diplomat. he is just trying to take in the experience of the middle east , but lowering expectations by his being there.
>> first of all, those of us who worked in the middle east peace terrain for so many years are delighted the president is going to israel as well as to the west bank . it is incredibly important for him to establish a direct connection with the israeli people . he had been criticized for not traveling to israel in his first term. i completely agree the president should not be taken new peace plan at this point in time. he has never been under so many threats. i think what the israeli people are looking for is the personal assurance that i know the president can provide the israeli people that he has their back.
>> there has been polling that shows the israelis don't believe the president has a particularly favorable attitude toward the country. there is a poll that shows 33% believe that the president's attitude toward israel is favorable. 14% say indifferent. 38% say hostile. 15% say other. there really hasn't been any difference in the president's policies toward israel than any previous president. i'm not sure if that is a function of the political opposition to him and what is presented to him. the reality, congress member, the policies are lineal than the former president.
>> he has been there as a senator and marc mentioned he is coming as a president. this is important for him to show up and say it is important for us to be here and we have your back. it is important to understand it takes two to tango. we need the leadership to come together. i think the president's itinerary to come together and have a settlement. we need to make sure they have the security to keep their families safe. one part of the tour is the iron dome . looking how we partner with them on a military side. when i was there talking to families who are under that threat like hafa and stuff. they will be reassured when they see the president of the united states being there as our commander in chief.
>> there is another side to the equation as well. the president will meet with president abbas. they feel they have not had their back.
>> i'm sorry, it is ridiculous we are talking about protecting one side of the equation when that side is occupying land and millions of people under occupation. israel has a choice today. the president tried so many times to talk to them about two state solutions. they rejected it. netanyahu was pointing his finger in the face. when biden was there the last time, they announced on the day of his arrival, more settlements and they do not care for any plan the u.s. administration would put in front of them. they were trying to put both sides in negotiation. we are facing one threat. not the missiles. israel has to decide if it is a jewish state or give up the jewish state . they are ruling over a majority of arabs in the land they are controlling. or it has to be non-territory solution. obama cannot force the israelis and palestinians, but can advise the leadership about the next generation. this is a real threat.
>> that's why i said it takes two to tango. we got done fighting another war in the gaza strip . both sides have to come together. i agree with you on the settlements. you are right there. it does take two to tango.
>> let's get david in.
>> if i can come in. first of all, as it happens, we took a trip to israel and west bank and jordan. it was a prelude to what the president is going to do. your preface is not how they see it in the region. we need the president in the region. we have a new government. as marc said we have real regional concerns. what is going in syria and iraot to be dismissed. the israeli people need to hear from the president directly. until now, as mark twain once said about the music of richard vaugner, the policies are good. i think it is better if you allow me to not to focus on the past.
>> that's in the future. not the past.
>> the past includes failed attempts by israelis to engage in the two-state agreement with two prime ministers . i would rather look forward. i think the president is coming at an important time. it is about more than a photo op . it is about inspiring hope and confidence.
>> we need to talk about the president and some of the conditions on the ground and the two sides seem to be having different discussions about what are the priorities. we will talk more about that when we come back. he was the point man of the middle east peace process under two presidential administrations. ambassador dennis ross joins us