The Last Word | March 21, 2013
>>> history was made in israel today , by the president of the united states .
>> so long as there is a united states of america --
>> president obama is set to give a major speech.
>> a high-profile address. [ speaking in foreign language ] you are not alone.
>> this is the visit the israeli people wanted to see.
>> it is an important speech.
>> the centerpiece --
>> america will do what we must to prevent a nuclear-armed iran .
>> president obama spoke directly.
>> the speech that extended close to 50 minutes, president obama tackled the two- state solution.
>> the united states is deeply committed. the time is now.
>> no wall is high enough, no iron dome is strong enough.
>> there is so much symbolism here.
>> israel is not going anywhere.
>> no doubt, this visit has been a success.
>> get ready, america , for a brand new republican party .
>> i know what our principles are.
>> marriage is between one man and one woman.
>> i know our party believes that marriage is between one man and one woman.
>> the future of their party is at risk here.
>> we have a party that's going to be inconclusive.
>> this is something we should allow people to do.
>> people are changing.
>> 81% of young people support same-sex marriage.
>> a marriage is between one man and one woman.
>> speaker boehner says house republicans are in a good spot.
>> the government is likely to stay open.
>> the revenue discussion is over.
>> at least for now.
>> how could you describe the current state of the gop?
>> you're asking me a question i can't answer.
>> this is a party in turmoil.
>> it's not about the messaging. it's the message.
>> get ready, america , for a brand new republican party .
>> we have a party that's goodbye to be inclusive.
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>>> the most memorable and most important day in the history of american presidential trips to israel was today. president richard nixon was the first president to go to israel . he may have done to simply to distract public attention from the investigation that was corroding his presidency and eventually led to his resignation, because we have had precious few presidents more cynical than richard nixon . the next president, gerald ford , did not go to israel . president jimmy carter visited israel , but ronald reagan never thought israel was worth the trip. nor did his successor, president george h.w. bush . then president bill clinton made up for that 12 years of neglect by visiting israel three times. and president george w. bush visited israel once in the last year of his presidency. so not every president visits israel , especially republican presidents, but modern presidential candidates do visit israel . barack obama actually first went to israel in 2006 when he was still an illinois senator. he went again in 2008 when he was running for president. you'll know chris christie is serious about running for president when he schedules a trip to israel . mitt romney went to israel last year in a desperate attempt to exploit a republican lie, that there was some kind of difference between president obama and it's really prime minister benjamin netanyahu about what the borders of israel should be. romney was aided and abetted in that lie by netanyahu , who is an old friend of romney 's. they worked together 30 years ago at a boston consulting firm . as we reviewed last night, netanyahu left no room for doubt, he wanted mitt romney to be the next president of the united states . and romney delivered a speech in israel that echoed netanyahu 's talking points at that time on iran .
>> we should employ any and all measures to dissuade the iranian regime from its nuclear course, and it is our fervent hope that diplomatic and economic measures will do so. in the final analysis , of course, no option should be excluded. we recognize israel 's right to defend itself, and that it is right for america to stand with you.
>> benjamin netanyahu did everything he could to pretend that the romney position on iran was somehow tougher than the obama position on iran . the romney speech was pure pandering from start to finish, which means that it, of course, did not include the words " palestine " or "palestinian." so what happened today? when the man who benjamin netanyahu did not want to be president spoke to an audience of 2,000 carefully screened by netanyahu 's government, composed largely of students? well, of course, first he was heckled. in hebrew. which makes him the first president in history to have to handle a hebrew heckler. then came the first standing ovation.
>> i believe that you will shape our future, and given the ties between our countries -- i believe your future is bound to ours. [ heckling ]
>> no, no. this is part of the lively debate that we talked about. this is good.
>> i have to say, we actually arranged for that, because it made me feel at home. you know, i -- i wouldn't feel comfortable if i didn't have at least one heckler.
>> the president then proceeded to deliver a speech that surely would have gotten him booed and heckled by many self-proclaimed friends of israel in the united states , if he had given that speech in the united states , where pretending to speak for the people of israel , and pretending to defend their interests is a common past time of republican politicians who attacked this president's choice for secretary of defense as somehow being an enemy of israel . it is a common past time for fox news commentators and other right wing pundits. they would have shouted down this president for saying what he was about to say, and they would have claimed that their shouting was all in defense and support of the people of israel . the president chose today to speak directly to the people of israel , including that heckler, about the hopes and dreams and, yes, the rights and fair expectations of the palestinian people . and not only did he not get booed for that, he was cheered for speaking to the israeli people about the palestinian people . the strongest cheers he got in his speech today surely much to the discomfort of benjamin netanyahu , were all for his vision of the future for israelis and for the palestinian people .
>> given the demographics west of the jordan river , the only way for israel to endure and thrive as a jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable palestine . that is true.
>> the president wasn't saying things that other wise and thoughtful observers of the situation haven't said. but he was saying things that no american president had said in this way, in this place, directly to israelis , who were able to immediately show the president and the world that they share the president's dream for an independent and viable palestine , and for basic human rights for palestinians , and for a future of peace and justice for israelis and palestinians . here is what made this the most important presidential speech ever delivered in israel .
>> the palestinian people 's right to self-determination, their right to justice, must also be recognized. and put yourself in their shoes. look at the world through their eyes. it is not fair that a palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of their own. living their entire lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements, not just of those young people , but their parents, grandparents, every single day. it's not just when violence against palestinians goes unpubliu unpunished. it's not right to prevent palestinians from farming their lands or restricting a student's ability to move around the west bank , or displace palestinian families from their homes. neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. just as israelis built a state in their homeland, palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land. and i am going off script here for a second. but before i came here, i met with a group of young palestinians from the age of 15 to 22. and talking to them, they weren't that different from my daughters. they weren't that different from your daughters. or sons. i honestly believe that if any israeli parent sat down with those kids, they would say, i want these kids to succeed. i want them to prosper. i want them to have opportunities just like my kids do. i believe that's what israeli parents would want for these kids if they had a chance to listen to them and talk to them. i believe that.
>> when is the last time you heard one of these self-proclaimed friends of israeli like mitt romney or sean hannity suggest that israelis should put themselves in their shoes, the shoes of palestinians , and look at the world through their eyes? you've never heard them say that. that kind of humanity and common sense is never a part of what passes for pro israel speech in the united states . in the united states , saying it's not right to prevent palestinians from farming their lands would not get you applause from a so-called pro israel audience. saying it's not right to restrict a student's ability to move around the west bank or to displace palestinian families from their home would not get you applause from those audiences in the united states . but president obama got rousing applause in israel , from the actual israeli people from pointing out those injustices that are visited upon palestinians every day. what kind of politician gives a speech like that? having no guarantee ahead of time what the audience's reaction would be? a politician who is willing to take risks, big risks. president obama was willing to take the risk of being booed for saying those things today, and instead, he was cheered and those cheers showed the world a face of israel that the american news media virtually never presents, and that the netanyahu government does not want you to see. president obama knows, he cannot be the only politician willing to take a risk for peace. he knows he needs an israeli partner for peace, and so he asked for one this way. without actually mentioning benjamin netanyahu 's name.
>> and let me say this as a politician. i can promise you this. political leaders will never take risks if the people do not push them to take some risks. you must create the change that you want to see. ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things.
>> joining me now, alex wagner, host of msnbc's "now" and a senior fellow at the brookings institution . alex , i thought the extraordinary thing about this speech, it's a combination of things. the president's words and then the audience's reaction which was the most important thing. the audience's reaction, i thought, was a unique opportunity for the israeli people to send their message to the world about what they believe and hope their future can be.
>> and sort of life-affirming, wasn't it? at just seeing the way they reacted to the notion that palestinians should have the same chance at success that they have. you know, lawrence, you said that this is a really risky move for -- not a risky move, but a president that's willing to take risks. i think the other side of that, this is the rhetoric and this is the speech of a man who is incredibly optimistic about the future and about the possibilities of change and about the openness of people's hearts and minds . i think it's really notable that this speech was given at a university. he clearly believes, and he said this numerous times during his speech, the youth are really the future. they're the ones that will push the ball forward. i think he fundamentally believes that forgiveness is genetically in their hearts. which is a really powerful -- look, this is a president facing an incredibly dysfunctional city in which he governs. and for him to go overseas carrying this message of hope and change that we really haven't heard since 2008 is a testament to his own optimism, and a real vision that i think we all would be -- well reminded.
>> let's listen to something he said about the palestinian leaders.
>> while i know you have had differences with the palestinian authority , i genuinely believe you do have a true partner in president abbas and prime minister fayatt. i believe that. peace is possible . it is possible. i'm not saying it's guaranteed. i can't even say that it is more likely than not. but it is possible.
>> ej deion, he could not have gotten applause in the united states by mentioning abbas and fayad.
>> i think there are actually a lot of friends of israel in the united states who agree with what obama said in that speech. because they were -- there was a key passage in that speech. he talked about a jewish democratic israel . and in israel itself and among a lot of israel 's friends in the united states , there is a realization that if the occupation continues, if this is one state , that one state is eventually going to have a palestinian majority. and so israelis would have to choose whether they would have a jewish state that wouldn't be democratic or a democratic state that would no longer be a jewish state . and that's what ariel sharon , a famous left-winger came to do. i think president obama did something really important today, i really agree with you on that. and it's to say that the two- state solution, which many people have been saying is dying, time is running out on it. he's saying, look, this is the only alternative we have for justice, for israelis and justice for the palestinians . and only to viable, thriving states can be at peace. so it was an important day. and i'm glad he finally put his marker down.
>> ej , quickly beforeent obama does very w ell with the jewish vote in america . i think if he was able to speak out directly to those people, he would get a lot of applause on exactly the same lines. what i'm talking about is that self-proclaimed group in washington, in republican world. the world that tries to say chuck hagel is somehow anti israel , this kind of organized approach to the notion that there's some separation between the obama administration and israel . that was never true, and it was proven completely untrue today with this speech.
>> you know, i heard an argument once between two folks who were pro israel . and one said, you know, a true friend stands with you in a fight, and the other one said, yes, that can be true. but it's also true that if you're having the same fight over and over and if you lose the fight, you might not -- you might go away. a true friend tries to stop the fight. and i think obama today was part of the -- he was that kind of true friend . and i think a lot of friends of israel want to end this conflict.
>> ej , dionne, thank you very much for joining us tonight. alex wagner, i need you to hang around for one more segment. can you do