Nightly News | May 19, 2011
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor (Los Angeles): If you've been following this broadcast, following our coverage, you have heard us talking about the so-called Arab spring, the upheaval in Egypt , Tunisia , Yemen , Bahrain , Syria , Libya . And it's still going on at this moment and will continue. Today President Obama delivered a major speech laying out his vision for the Middle East , and his main message is already proving controversial. We have it covered tonight from all angles, beginning with NBC 's Ron Allen at the White House . Ron , good evening.
RON ALLEN reporting: Good evening to you, Brian . Yes, the president tried to put the US squarely on the side of the people in the Arab world demanding their rights. But all that may have been overshadowed by his most direct comments yet, perhaps, about how he thinks Israel and the Palestinians should make peace. President Obama hailed the so-called Arab spring as a historic opportunity.
President BARACK OBAMA: There must be no doubt that the United States of America welcomes change that advances self-determination and opportunity. But after decades of accepting the world as it is in the region, we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be.
ALLEN: Saying the US has a stake not just in the stability of nations, but also the freedom of people.
Pres. OBAMA: Our message is simple. If you take the risks that reform entails, you will have the full support of the United States .
ALLEN: The president had blunt words for dictators like Syria 's Bashar al-Assad , accused of killing hundreds in a brutal crackdown on protesters demanding change.
Pres. OBAMA: President Assad now has a choice. He can lead that transition or get out of the way.
ALLEN: Many in the Arab world have doubts about Mr. Obama 's commitment.
Unidentified Man: It's really frustrating.
ALLEN: As we saw firsthand in Tahrir Square , where many expected more support from the president. And today it was his very direct language to Israel that was perhaps most striking.
Pres. OBAMA: The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation.
ALLEN: Calling on Israel to hand over a significant amount of land to the Palestinians in exchange for security and peace.
Pres. OBAMA: We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.
ALLEN: Israel 's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected that, saying Israel would be indefensible, and major Jewish settlements would be outside Israel . However, Mr. Obama said he's convinced the majority of Palestinians and Israelis no longer want to be trapped in the past.
Pres. OBAMA: That is the choice that must be made; a choice between hate and hope, between the shackles of the past and the promise of the future.
ALLEN: The president also said that all Palestinians , including the militant group Hamas , which is now part of the government, must recognize Israel's right to exist . The Israeli prime minister is here tomorrow for talks with the president, and there's certainly a lot more to talk about now. Brian :
WILLIAMS: Ron Allen at the White House tonight with our report on the president's speech. Ron , thanks.