An open microphone has stirred the waters of an Israeli diplomatic nightmare: a
crisis with its staunchest ally, the US.
During what French President
Nicolas Sarkozy thought was a private conversation with US President Barack
Obama, the French leader called Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu “a liar” at
last week’s G-20 summit in Cannes, France. But his comments were only publicized on
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One Israeli official with a sense of humor quipped in response,
“You should hear what [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel says of
The Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry refused to
comment, and officials who spoke with The Jerusalem Post
tried unsuccessfully to
focus the conversation on French-Israel relations.
But while Sarkozy’s
comments made for a good headline, it was Obama’s response, of being “fed up”
with Netanyahu, that caught everyone’s attention in Israel.
election campaign and until today, foes of Obama have portrayed him as bad for
the Jews and bad for Israel.
n an interview with the Post this summer,
John Bolton, a Republican and former US ambassador to the UN, said of Obama that
he was “the most anti-Israel president in the history of the state, without any
In contrast, just last week in Jerusalem, US Ambassador to
Israel Dan Shapiro spoke of Obama’s support for the Jewish state and of the
strong ties between the two countries.
Israelis hope Shapiro is correct,
but fear Bolton’s assessment is more accurate.
“Obama’s true face was
revealed, as are his cold and disrespectful policies toward Israel and Prime
Minister Netanyahu,” MK Danny Danon (Likud) told the Post. “Anyone who had
doubts about the way Obama treats Israel doesn’t have them anymore. Obama is bad
The possibility of bad blood between Netanyahu and Obama, as
well as the specter of a crisis in US and Israel relations, comes at a critical
moment between the two long-standing allies.
The two countries are joined
together in their battle against a nuclear Iran. It’s a fight whose significance
was highlighted by the publication, on the same day, of a report by the
International Atomic Energy Association which confirmed that Iran had not
stopped its atomic program.
The US has stood firmly with Israel in its
insistence that negotiations are the only way to solve the Israeli-Palestinian
The threat of a US veto and American lobbying efforts have been
instrumental in helping to thwart the Palestinian bid at the UN Security Council
to attain UN membership.
The attack on Netanyahu’s diplomatic abilities
also comes just one day after the prime minister faced a crisis in his party and
his coalition. Those in the opposition could not help but note that there was an
internal political message here for Israel as well.
Labor MK Daniel
Ben-Simon told the Post on Tuesday that he is “embarrassed as a citizen and as a
MK” by Sarkozy’s words.
“I was embarrassed to read what Sarkozy thinks
about our prime minister, and I was even more embarrassed to hear that the US
President agrees with him,” Ben-Simon said.
“I am filled with shame that
this is the way two of our greatest allies treat our prime minister,” he added.
“I think this is the first time such comments have been publicized.”
[Netanyahu] lies so easily to important officials, just imagine how much he lies
to us,” Ben-Simon said.
Kadima, whose last Knesset campaign slogan was
“Bibi, I don’t believe him,” chose not to comment on the matter.
Sarkozy said is more than enough,” a party spokesman quipped.
official, however, said that the ties between allies were not necessarily frayed
by such side-line conversations.
Relations exist between countries and
While one influences the other, ultimately nations are tied
together more by their joint interest than the warm feelings between their
leaders, the official said.
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