At the top of Sunday's NBC Meet the Press, chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel forwarded anti-Israel sentiment during a segment about President Obama's trip to the Middle East: "I think the President went there to give Israel a big hug. Some people in the region think that he went too far, that he went too far to embrace Zionism as an ideology, not just the State of Israel." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Engel declared: "Israel feels very threatened, very unsure about its future. That's obvious by the way they are walling themselves in psychologically and physically....the idea was to make Israel feel secure in an increasingly insecure region." He lamented: "The Palestinians generally were disappointed with the trip, nothing concrete coming out of it."
On the March 20 Nightly News, Engel fretted over Israel becoming a "fortress" nation that was "shutting out the Arab world and shutting itself in."
Here is an transcript of Engel's reporting on the March 24 Meet the Press:
DAVID GREGORY: New hope for a peace push in the Middle East. The President arrived back in Washington after a Mideast trip that took him to Israel for his first time as president, as well as visits to the Palestinian territories and to Jordan. While a reinvigorated peace process is one goal, more pressing concerns for the Obama White House are the threats from Iran and the effects of the relentless bloodshed in Syria.
We want to begin this morning with some analysis about the President's trip this morning with our chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, back from the region. He is in New York this morning. I've also got David Brooks of the New York Times and E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post here with me in Washington.
Richard, let me start with you. The President called on Israel to renew efforts toward the creation of a Palestinian state. He helped restore the Israeli/Turkish relationship. So what else do you think he can return with that he can actually build upon?
RICHARD ENGEL: Well, I think the reconciliation between Turkey and Israel is something that's very important because I wouldn't see the chances right now of an Israeli/Palestinian reconciliation. But I do think the Middle East recognizes that there are urgent regional matters, as Syria implodes, that the region needs to have some sort of summit, and Turkey is going to play a big part of that.
So I think coming out of this, you're going to see Istanbul emerging as a major destiny for – a major destination for diplomatic relations. I think that was the way to view the Middle East trip right now, in a regional context, not so much about getting the Israelis and Palestinians to talk.
GREGORY: And, Richard, you talk about some of the private discussions going on between the President and Bibi Netanyahu and King Abdullah of Jordan, the focus on the end game in Syria and the threat from Iran. This is going to occupy much of the President's time.
ENGEL: It certainly will. If you look right now at the region, Syria's imploding. It is exporting refugees. It is exporting instability. Israel feels very threatened, very unsure about its future. That's obvious by the way they are walling themselves in psychologically and physically. And I think the President went there to give Israel a big hug.
Some people in the region think that he went too far, that he went too far to embrace Zionism as an ideology, not just the State of Israel. The Palestinians generally were disappointed with the trip, nothing concrete coming out of it. But the idea was to make Israel feel secure in an increasingly insecure region.
GREGORY: Alright, Richard Engel, just back from the region. He's in New York this morning. Thank you very much, Richard.