Nightly News | May 19, 2011
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor (Los Angeles): Let's go to a couple of our veterans who cover that part of the world. Richard Engel is in Cairo tonight, Andrea Mitchell is in Washington . And, Richard , considering you and I walked right behind you there through the square, the height of the first of the uprising, how's this going over, over there?
RICHARD ENGEL reporting: People have not been terribly impressed. They didn't think that President Obama was nearly specific enough. They wanted a concrete plan of action to advance on the Israeli-Palestinian front. They didn't think they heard anything new, frankly, Brian .
WILLIAMS: And, Andrea Mitchell , in Washington , understandable, I'm guessing, you're going to report kind of a different view.
ANDREA MITCHELL reporting: Well, the White House view is that there's a grim landscape right now for accomplishing anything in the peace front. Egypt brokered that deal between the Palestinian government and Hamas declaring Hamas part of the talks and Hamas as an enemy of Israel , won't recognize Israel's right to exist . George Mitchell , the president's Middle East negotiator, has quit. So one argument would be, why take the political heat to launch something now that's not going to go anywhere? That said, the president is under a lot of pressure from Saudi Arabia and Jordan to do something. The region is in turmoil. So he did take one new step. He explicitly called on Israel to withdraw to its original borders before it won the 1967 war, or give up some of their land in exchange. Land swaps have been suggested before, Brian , but not those explicit borders. So the president did pledge today to do something, and offered to oppose efforts in the UN that would recognize Palestine as a country next fall, and that is something Israel does want. So he pushed it along a little bit. He didn't go as far as people in the region would certainly like.
WILLIAMS: And back to Richard for a moment. Richard , you and I were e-mailing back and forth last night. We've literally been in a situation, not knowing quite where to be for the next pot to boil over, and yet the one unifying theory is that so much attention will now be focused on Israel , correct?
ENGEL: If the US is waiting for the situation in this region to settle down before engaging in an Arab-Israeli peace negotiation, or an Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiation, that may be too late. Already there's a tremendous amount of frustration being directed at Israel . And if the United States doesn't show leadership and take ownership of the process, there is a very good chance that militant groups could try and divert attention, again, and divert anger toward Israel , and the US could lose control of this process.
WILLIAMS: All right. Again, two of our veterans of that region, coverage of what's going on there. Richard Engel in Cairo , Andrea Mitchell in our Washington bureau, thanks to you both.