Sarkozy gaffe rekindles talk of US-J'lem tensions

Leak of French leader, Obama making disparaging comments about Netanyahu could fray ties; Danon: Obama’s true face has been revealed.

Netanyahu Obama 311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Netanyahu Obama 311
(photo credit: Reuters)
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 Tuesday.
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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 Sarkozy.”
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.
From his 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 question.”
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 for Israel.”
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 conflict.
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.”
“If [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.
“What Sarkozy said is more than enough,” a party spokesman quipped.
One Israeli official, however, said that the ties between allies were not necessarily frayed by such side-line conversations.
Relations exist between countries and not leaders.
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.