Mitchell Reports | March 21, 2013
>> in a moment. during his speech today in jerusalem , that was the centerpiece of his trip, president obama spoke directly to the israeli public. restating his commitment to israel 's security and making his case for peace with the palestinians . we have two very special gifts, donna weiss is the host of "meet the press" on israeli tv's channel 2 and our own david gregory , the moderator of nbc's "meet the press," the longest-running program on television. we have a theme here of "meet the press." david with your indulgence, let me ask donna first, but who this was received. how the speech has been received here in israel . it was a dual message, the message of commitment to security, but also you have to take chances on peace.
>> first let me thank you for having me. it's great to be here. i think this was a new way to talk about the peace process , the two-state solution. it hasn't been tried before. you come into a room, you talk straight to the young generation , you don't use the old world. you don't talk about the green line , the '67 border. the right of return. jerusalem , nothing, that was out. it was a whole new approach, embracing the israelis , touching on every button from the famous, our version of "saturday night live," speaking in hebrew, talking about all our leaders, getting the israelis to feel good about themselves and asking why if you have such a prosperous way of life , why don't your neighbors deserve that? that's a new approach and i think it got the ears and the hearts of the israelis . no doubt this visit has been a success. will there be a follow-up? will the majority of israelis who don't go along with that narrative, listen and agree? we'll have to see.
>> david gregory , you have watched this for so many years, your perception of how the president has done clearly the charm offensive has worked to smooth over the differences with prime minister netanyahu . but there is the big question that donna was just talking about, which is can we restart those peace talks with the palestinians ?
>> and i think that that latter point is very difficult as you know, andrea, from covering it day in and day out. the extent to which they have the stomach to get a peace process started. whether there is enough unity on the palestinian side to say nothing of the difficulties on the israeli side to get that going. but i go back to donna 's point. what is it that has resonated about the trip. what was the real intent. we can break down the discussion of security or the other elements of the alliance. but what really struck me is that this is a president trying to reach into the souls of jews around the world. particularly israelis . by talking a lot about jewish peoplehood. if there was a correcting aspect of this trip, it was to settle the idea that the president believes that it's not just the holocaust that gives credence to the idea of israel . but it is a sense of jewish peoplehood. he spoke of moses today, he spoke of the joshua generation and what he really spoke about in terms of reinvigorating a peace process to a younger generation , was the essence of what it means to be jewish . which is to treat the stranger as yourself. to understand that you were once a strange anywhere the land of egypt. this is the message of passover. and it's no coincidence that the president talked about looking at this struggle through the eyes of the palestinians . this is really about appealing particularly to a younger generation 's sense of their own peoplehood and their sense of mission in the world. and i agree with donna . i thought that was a completely different tack. and it's much more about how the president identifies with israelis on that kind of personal level.
>> and david , i thought that the, the brilliance of this approach, this new approach, because it is so particular to barack obama , is that by his own acknowledgement, subtle acknowledgement here, he made mistakes in the first year of his presidency. going to cairo , not coming here. it wasn't just not coming here, but the message from cairo was there had to be a settlement freeze, that was a sine quannon.
>> the palestinians after the ten-month freeze by the prime minister refused to come back to the talks, so there's a the although of blame to share. but he seemed to be using the african- american experience , talking about his daughters, the seder table. the joshua generation , used by african-americans to describe that generation of post civil rights era generation . to talk about that experience, related to the palestinians and appeal to young israelis , that's the broader message here.
>> yes, i think we're a long way from cairo , you know. i think what president obama and his people and his staff understood that in israel , you have to touch the public opinion . and then the leaders especially been minimum n benjamin netanyahu will follow. this man walked back from lots of principles just to get the soldier back. netanyahu was very, very attuned to the public opinion . so i think they understood they have to grasp the young generation , the people of israel . i think president obama did that from the very first moment he stepped down in israel . you know he was off that plane, he took off his jacket, he was informal. he hugged every kid he saw on the way. he first he took netanyahu , he talked about you know his wife, his late brother. his kids. and today he took the israeli public. but you know, i'm not sure because i was listening to that speech and i was asking myself, was it the caring parent giving a pep talk to his adolescent child saying --
>> was it too paternalistic?
>> no, in that sense, saying we'll always have your back, but you have to take your future in your hands. we're not going to be there to do that for you. this is your last wake-up call. or will there be steps to follow? this i'm not sure, because i mean it was mentioned that the american press, that this was a tour of tourist president coming to israel . i'm not sure if he was a tourist. but we're not sure he's going to take actions.
>> well john kerry is going to follow up, the secretary of state, coming back here for din wer prime minister netanyahu . as a former two-term chief white house correspondent, david , you must have been identifying with our own chuck todd and how he tried to sneak in several questions. i wanted to play a little bit more of that wonderful exchange at the news conference last night.
>> thank you, mr. president. mr. prime minister. mr. president, i want to follow up a little bit on the peace process . and mr. prime minister, i want to help out my colleague over here and then a question, another question i had for you. is why do you --
>> chuck, how many you got? you see how the young lady from channel 1 , she had one question, she was very well behaved , chuck.
>> i got one for you.
>> these are muted questions.
>> i get four questions.
>> this is not a kosher question, but don't hog it.
>> chuck, mine you're just incorrigible.
>> so, so david , of course with the four questions, the centerpiece of the passover seder , there was a seder joke, a kosher joke, it was a borscht belt moment.
>> and references to the talmud as well. you covered it all in that question. we've been in that situation, we've been in the situation at the white house , you do as much as you can and try to engage both leaders. the reality is this both leaders did engage on the question that chuck asked, were there failures in the first administration, what is it that both sides take away from this relationship. and to go back to the earlier point, too, that donna made, andrea. i don't envision that this administration, despite kerry's efforts that are forthcoming wants to engage in that sort of peace process in wrenching detail. that maybe seen as more clintonesque. we don't know if they're going to have that level of perseverance. there will be much more of a message to say to the israelis and palestinians , you've got to push this along yourselves for the sake of what's happening in the rest of the region. and that's the big question. i mean the demands, the security demands, be it syria or iran of course and then the impact of the arab spring. may become much more pressing concerns for this alliance than even the peace process .
>> david gregory , thank you so much and donna weiss, such a pleasure having you here.
>> "meet the press" we love jerusalem .