msnbc | March 17, 2013
>>> the last time i was there as a senator, i still had the option of wandering through the old city in jerusalem . that option, i think, becomes a lot trickier once you're actually president.
>> that was president obama speaking to israel 's channel 2 about his upcoming trip to the middle east . mr. obama will leave on tuesday. it's his first trip to israel , as he mentioned there, his first trip as president. the president hopes to offer support to the middle east peace process . we want to take a reality check on what president obama can realistically accomplish on this trip, and even throughout the rest of his second term as well. joining me now from jerusalem , mark regev , the chief spokesman for israeli prime minister , benjamin netanyahu , and here in new york, a msnbc contributor and she was raised in east jerusalem . good to have both of you. mark, i'm going to start with you. the president has not even left yet, and there's already some criticism of the trip. "the new york times" reports earlier this week, quote, israeli officials have voiced mild disappointment that the president is not addressing the knesset. is that going to be an issue for the israeli government and what are the expectations for the trip?
>> no, i don't think so. th i think that came from a few members of the knesset, but as a whole we are really looking forward to the president coming, we welcome his visit and will be rolling out the red carpet . this is a good chance to show the world the very special relationship that exists between the united states and jerusalem . we're allies and friends and we're going to showcase that this week. as well as discussing a few important issues. we've got to deal with the crisis in syria. talk about stopping the iranians from getting a nuclear weapon. but we're looking forward to this week and expecting very good meetings with the president.
>> rula, what are palestinians saying about the president's trip? how do they feel?
>> obviously, they want the united states and the president to be more involved in the issue. therm very well his speech in cairo in 2009 when he said the suffering of the palestinian or the persuasion of the palestinian is intolerable and we need to go back to the negotiation and nothing of that happened, nothing changed on the ground. actually, the prime minister just appointed neftali as the administers for housing and the infrastructure. so he would be building more settlements. the same issue that the president himself and the vice president asked israeli to freeze as a condition to restart negotiations and they never respected that. so i'm not sure we will accomplish anything on that front. i think they might -- the president wants to listen. he will listen to all parts and he will try to invite them to talk and to negotiate again, but i don't think he will -- anybody will listen to him from the israeli side.
>> mark, how much of this visit is simply a maintenance visit of sorts for president obama ? how much of this is about laying the foundation for resuming the peace process ?
>> if it's possible to restart the peace process , no one will be more happy than israel . we have been calling for the last four years for restarting direct negotiations with the palestinians without any preconditions at all. we've suggested that leaders from both sides meet and talk and try to find solutions. because ultimately, that's the only way to move forward, by trying to bridge the gaps that exist. now, up until now, for the most part, the palestinians , for their own reasons, have chosen not to engage, to boycott the negotiating table. i hope that's about to change. and if the president comes with a message of peace and reconciliation, i can tell you israel is on board and i hope the palestinians will be too.
>> what about, mark, and if i may, what about building in the areas that the palestinian are asking you to stop building in, and what about the multiple things, the checkpoints and many other things that israel never wanted to implement, not even as a condition, as one of the reasons why that israel is a palestinian side in the agreement, one of the major things the israelis signed on that, actually, was to implement that and that was never implemented.
>> mark, what's your response to that?
>> you know, israelis and palestinians disagree on a whole range of issues. one of them is the one you just mentioned, the issue of settlements, but there are other issues too. we in israel are very disappointed that the palestinians deny our right to exist as a state. we've also got complaints. now, instead of being stuck in a negative framework of saying what the other side is doing wrong, i think that gets us nowhere. we have to say, what makes things better. and the first thing is to try to overcome those gaps in negotiations. instead of a negative dialogue of confrontation, let's have a positive dialogue of reconciliation. and i say let's start peace talks now without preconditions, without piling up problems on the table, let's discuss candidly what separates us. that's the only way we're going to move forward. that's, i think, the message that has to be to get this peace process back on track.
>> i do want to turn to perception in this country for just a moment here as well. rula, there's this new gallup poll that shows that american's support for israel matches an all-time high. there's the numbers right there. the poll shows that 64% support the israelis while 12% support the palestinians . to what do you attribute the surge and sympathy, so to speak?
>> well, if you make that same poll in europe, it would be the other way around, simply because the palestinian point -- i think i am the only, the only palestinian tv host or analyst that's invited in the media. the only one. i think the only narrative that we heard in america over and over is an israeli narrative or pro-israeli narrative. congress is 100% pro-israeli. the audience here, only that point of view. security, security, security, and they don't hear actually the other side, what the palestinian are going through. and i want to say, mark, one of the things that we all remember is the prime minister that was killed by a settler. and he used to say, i am making peace . this is his last words. "i'm not talking about anymore about it, i am making peace ." the key word here is "making," doing peace , implementing accords and not talking more and more. we all know what we have to do. but i don't think this government, who ran on a platform, the israeli government , bibi netanyahu , ran on a platform, no negotiation, no recognition of anything that the palestinians are actually offering.
>> 20 seconds to respond and wrap things up for us, mark.
>> listen, my prime minister has just been re-elected and he's just put together a new government, and that government will be meeting president obama when he arrives here on wednesday. this government wants peace . we are ready for historic reconciliation with the palestinians and i say, let's not waste time. let's immediately start peace talks with the palestinians . we can make life better for both palestinians and israelis . we can build a better middle east together. i'm not ignoring the problems. we have to deal with the issues very seriously in negotiations. we want to make sure that peace is a safe peace , a secure peace , a peace where people don't have to live in fear. but let's start negotiating today.
>> mark regrev and rula jebreal, thank you both for your insights.