White House: Obama and Netanyahu are close

Washington is working to put a positive spin on a negative comment US president made about the PM to French President Sarkozy.

November 11, 2011 03:49
2 minute read.
Netanyahu and Obama meet in New York

Netanyahu Obama 311. (photo credit: Reuters)

The White House is working to put a positive spin on a negative comment US President Barack Obama made about Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu last week.

Obama “has a very close working relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu,” Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters at a White House briefing on Wednesday.

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“They speak very regularly. I think they’ve probably spent more time one on one than any other leader that the president has engaged in,” Rhodes said.

He spoke with reporters after a private conversation between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Obama on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Cannes last week was picked up by a microphone and broadcast to reporters.

“I can not bear Netanyahu, he’s a liar," Sarkozy said.

“You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him every day,” Obama replied.

Rhodes declined to address the comment specifically, but urged reporters to think positively about the conversation.

In the midst of dealing with important economic issues at the summit, Obama spent time lobbying against the Palestinians’ unilateral statehood bid at the United Nations, he said.

“The president was personally engaging foreign leaders to review his opinion that he opposed Palestinian membership in UN agencies. He personally did register his view, not just with President Sarkozy but with other leaders, that this was counterproductive,” Rhodes said.

“It speaks to his commitment to Israel’s security that he was doing that even in the context of a very pressing and urgent economic crisis.”

The US and Israel have a security- and values-based relationship, Rhodes said.

“Our actions speak very loudly, which is that this president has taken security cooperation with Israel to unprecedented levels,” he said.

Obama has stood up against attempts to delegitimize Israel and has defended it at the UN, Rhodes said.

In the coming days, the two countries will be consulting with each other regarding ongoing issues at the UN and the newly released report on Iran’s nuclear program by the International Atomic Energy Agency, he said.

“It’s certainly true that we’re going to be in close contact at a variety of levels with the Israeli government, and I think that speaks to the depth of our relationship,” the US deputy national security adviser said.

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