The Daily Rundown | March 21, 2013
>>> heard. chuck todd is in ramallah with the president and we'll be hearing from him in just a minute.
>>> president obama left jerusalem this morning to head to the west bank where he met with president mahmoud abbas . he was greeted by a crowd this morning as only the third sitting u.s. president to visit the palestinian territories . just hours before he headed into the west bank, palestinian militants fired a pair of rockets from hamas-controlled gaza. they landed in southern israel , but no one was injured. president obama rejected that violence and said he was committed to a two-state solution in the future and he was very specific about what the u.s. wants to see.
>> we seek an independent, viable and contiguous palestinian state as the homeland of the palestinian people alongside the jewish state of israel , two nations enjoying self determination, security and peace.
>> nbc's chuck todd joins me now from ramallah. chuck, hello.
>> reporter: well, good morning, chris . let me just tell you the most remarkable thing about this morning's events between the president and abbas is the fact that the president is openly admitting that he is simply trying to get the two sides to sit down and talk rather -- so there's negotiations to begin the negotiations. you can tell there's a little bit of frustration with the obama delegation in that that's the stage that we're at, but that is the stage that we're at. the issue of settlements, which is something the president dodged yesterday with netanyahu , he couldn't quite dodge it today but, boy, did he tap dance around it. take a listen.
>> we do not consider continued settlement activity to be constructive, to be appropriate, to be something that can advance the cause of peace. i will say with respect to israel that the politics there are complex and i recognize that that's not an issue that's going to be solved immediately.
>> reporter: later in that same press conference, the president said that the settlement issue should not be considered a core issue. translation, he was sending a message to abbas, don't expect a settlement freeze before you sit down and talk, no preconditions. if there was one thing the president was trying to emphasize, don't be trying to have preconditions before you agree to sit down and talk. now yesterday at the press conference with benjamin netanyahu , the issue of the middle east peace process and the president's strug elgles in his first term to get it launched as he wanted to do in that first year of his presidency, he discussed that and he admitted that he's learned from some mistakes.
>> i am absolutely sure that there are a host of things that i could have done that would have been more deft and would have created better optics. but ultimately this is a really hard problem.
>> reporter: now, they also discussed, netanyahu and obama , the issue of iran and syria . yesterday the theme of the day was red line . so on iran , the big news is that prime minister netanyahu and president obama agree that iran is at least a year away. netanyahu agrees with the u.s. intelligence timeline on that issue. but it sounds like netanyahu got what he wanted to hear out of the president, which is making sure nothing was being taken off the table. take a listen.
>> i think that there's a misunderstanding about time. if iran decides to go for a nuclear weapon , that is to actually manufacture the weapon, then it probably -- then it will take them about a year. we do have a common assessment on the schedules, on intelligence. we share that intelligence. we don't have any argument about it.
>> reporter: and as for syria , the president would not yet confirm whether u.s. intelligence believes chemical weapons have been used, but he seemed to issue the assad regime a warning.
>> we have to make sure that we know exactly what happened, what was the nature of the incident, what can we document, what can we prove. so i have instructed my teams to work closely with all other countries in the region and international organizations and institutions to find out precisely whether or not this red line was crossed. once we establish the facts, i have made clear that the use of chemical weapons is a game-changer.
>> reporter: so, chris , the big takeaway of this trip if it ended today is this, the united states and israel are more on the same diplomatic page than ever before on iran . when iran would get nuclear weapons and what the response would be if there's proof that they're pursuing them. two, we're a long ways away from even getting middle east peace negotiations in the talking phase, but there's optimism that at least there may be an attempt to have everybody agree, okay, no preconditions and everybody will sit down. and then of course you heard that syria threat. later today , chris , maybe the most important speech that the obama administration thinks that the president will give here during this trip and that is a speech to the israeli public university students because the president simply wants to improve his own personal ratings here. if he has better ratings here in israel , he can influence the peace process a lot more effectively in the way that bill clinton was able to do in the '90s.
>> now, chuck, i would be remiss if -- there was a light-hearted moment in that netanyahu / president obama press conference yesterday that did involve you. let's play it and we'll come back and talk about it.
>> reporter: so i've heard.
>> thank you, mr. president, mr. prime minister. mr. president, i want to follow up a little bit on the peace process . mr. prime minister, i want to help out my colleague over here and then a question -- another question i had for you is --
>> 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've got one for you.
>> these are --
>> passover starts in a couple days. i get four questions, right?
>> this is not a kosher question, but don't hog it.
>> chuck, i mean you're just incorrigible.
>> the incorrigible chuck todd .
>> reporter: there are worse things to be called by the president. but let the record state it was three questions. one for the president and maybe i slipped in two for the prime minister. but i was just helping out a pal. i was helping out my buddy, matt, at reuters who don't get his follow-up answered. and the most important thing, chris , both of them answered all the questions. we did get some answers. in fact that specific answer on iran and the assessment on nuclear weapons , it came during our light-hearted banter, so sometimes we have to be pests, i guess.
>> i like thinking of it as question 1 a, b and c, chuck. we'll see you back on the show a little later. and let's