Hot mics, liars, and tempests in tea pots: Does Sarkozy's Netanyahu comment surprise anyone?
French President Nicholas Sarkozy called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a 'liar' that he 'can't stand' and President Obama didn't rush to Netanyahu's defense. This is neither surprising nor meaningful.
One high-powered man who's made a career of climbing over rivals to the most powerful position in his country expresses frustration and distaste for another man who's done the same in his country and is in the middle of an interminable, frustrating international dispute. A third man, with a similar background to the first two, also hints at a testy relationship with man No. 2.Skip to next paragraph
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Stop the presses!
Ok. Sarcasm may be the lowest form of wit, but it feels like the appropriate tone for addressing the "hot mic" moment in Paris the other day, when French President Nicolas Sarkozy told President Obama that he "can't stand" Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and that "he's a liar."
The two men thought they were having a private chat ahead of a public conference, unaware that the microphones in front of them were already on. Mr. Obama appeared to share some of Mr. Sarkozy's frustration with the Israeli leader, reportedly saying "you're fed up with him, but I have to work with him every day."
The global order, such as it is, will probably survive.
Mr. Netanyahu – who like the other two leaders, has heard as much and worse directed at him in his political career – will take this in stride.
Of course, you wouldn't necessarily know this from some of the coverage and reaction in the days since. A story in the Sydney Morning Herald today asserts "the loose remarks reflect mounting international frustration with the stalled Middle East peace process, as well as a barely concealed animosity between Mr Obama and Netanyahu."
Abraham Foxman, head of the US-based Anti-Defamation League, a pro-Israel organization, went further in a statement yesterday.
"President Obama’s response to Mr. Sarkozy implies that he agrees with the French leader," said Foxman. "What is sad is that we now have to worry to what extent these private views inform foreign policy decisions of the US and France – two singularly important players in the peace process."
The frustration the Obama and Sarkozy administrations feel is real, and there are reasons behind it. Netanyahu has continued to expand settlements in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. Israel announced an acceleration of construction in response to Palestine being voted a full member of UNESCO, a move the US opposed.
That powerful men with different interests, who disagree on important issues, might not be planning family holidays together, is hardly surprising.