The Daily Rundown | March 20, 2013
>>> 2013 . the first day of spring. come on, you like this tie. it's colorful. this is "the daily rundown." i'm luke russert in for chuck todd who is in israel for the president. he'll be joining us from there in a few moments. president obama has arrived in the middle east to begin i had four-day tour of the region. but it's not all pomp and circumstance . difficult issues loom as the leaders prepare for meetings later today . but publicly, the focus is on what president obama called the eternal bond between the two nations.
>> the united states of america stands with the state of israel because it is in our fundamental national security interests to stand with israel . it makes us both stronger. it makes us both more prosperous and it makes the world a better place .
>> in an unstable and uncertain middle east , the need for our alliance is greater than ever.
>> the president's historic trip began a little more than two hours ago when air force one arrived in tel aviv . he was welcomed by israeli president shim own perez and prime minister benjamin netanyahu . along with hundreds of guests and vips. before he left the airport, president obama was shown an area displaying israeli air defenses including the so-called iron dome . then the motorcade saided to jerusalem where the pred will have a little down time before meetings today. our own chuck todd is in jerusalem. he joins me now. chuck, looks like to be a rather pleasant day at least weather-wise. what is going on in the holy land ?
>> well, mr. russert, it is unbelievable weather here greeting the president. pretty much a perfect spring day , if you will here in the holy land . what was interesting is the first thing the president said as he got off and there were microphones everywhere, i don't think he knew he was on, he said it's good to be away from congress. also that chitchat as making his way through shaking hands with various dignitaries, he and netanyahu were heard joking about difficulties in the budget process that both leaders are having in each of their countries. but, look, this event, you set it up well. this trip is heavy on symbolism, going to be somewhat light on substance as far as what, you know, what is he going to take away? what are the take aways? there are important issues, iran, sear yashgs the peayria and the peac e process. but this last one, the amazing miss, if you will. president obama when he started his first year in office, he said the peace process with the palestinians was going to be a priority and launch the effort far sooner than either bill clinton or george w. bush did in their administrations. then it fell flat quickly. what was interesting to hear what the president said when he arrived formally as to why he made this his first trip of his second term.
>> across this region the winds of change bring both promise and peril. so i see this visit as an opportunity to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between our nations, to restate america's israel 's security, and to speak directly to the people of israel and to your neighbors.
>> and he's going to be going to ramallah meeting with the palestinian authority there, the head there, abbas in the west bank . he's meeting with jord ab's king abdullah on this trip with mubarak not in egypt anymore, the single most important arab leader in the peace process if something happens. now president perez, he spoke about the peace process after the president spoke.
>> we long to see an end to the conflict with the palestinians , to see the palestinians enjoying fraed freedom and prosperity in their own state. we extend our hand in peace to all countries in the middle east .
>> fact is we're a long way away from this peace process jump-starting at allment we have to figure out who speaks for the palestinians . that's giant issue, number one. and then there is domestic political concerns for netanyahu . the issue that may dominate the rest of the day to day though, luke, is syria and these reportsmereport reports. we have israeli government officials saying they do believe chemical weapons have been used in that conflict. the united states didn't confirm that. but here's what jay carney said yesterday about the definition of red line which he really didn't give full definition to.
>> substantial assistance has been and will continue to be provided to the syrian opposition. that assistance remains nonlethal. with regards to the opposition. but we are evaluating our policies and programs of assistance regularly.
>> the question is, does the president make new policy while he's on israeli soil as it has to do with syria ? that might be unlikely. but he needs to probably give some better definition to the red line issue when it comes to chemical weapons . what does it mean? that usually means some form of military intervention. is that a no fly zone? is that troops on the ground to secure the chemical weapons ? none of that is clear from the obama administration. and they probably don't want it to be clear because they're trying to have syria 's assad hear all of that as a possibility. i expect to hear a lot of questions to the president that when he has a joint press conference with netanyahu .
>> chuck, no doubt a very busy day ahead for you and president obama and israel . thank you so much for that report. we'll see you later for an in-depth look at the famous iron dome . so stick around.
>> you got it, buddy.