In a slightly embarrassing episode, Nicolas Sarkozy and Barack Obama were caught on a live mic dissing Benjamin Netanyahu. The French president called the Israeli prime minister “a liar,” and the American president reportedly commiserated: “I have to deal with him every day."
Although the context was Obama pushing Sarkozy to halt the Palestinian bid at the U.N., that didn’t temper the criticism. The ADL slammed the exchange as "unpresidential."
Meanwhile, Republicans are making hay.
Mitt Romney was quick to take a whack at Obama over “liar"-gate.
“Overheard conversation at G-20 another sign of Obama’s low regard for Israel and its leader…I will stand by our allies, not tear them down,” the Republican presidential candidate tweeted.
Sen. John McCain called the exchange “indicative of the attitude and policies that this administration has had towards Israel.”
The Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl argued that world leaders don’t give Netanyahu enough credit for the accommodations he’s made. “But are their feelings justified?" he asked. Diehl doesn’t think so: "Though Netanyahu has never been an easy partner for Western leaders, it’s hard to see why he would inspire so much animus from the two presidents now.”
Citing the late Irving Kristol, Diana Furchtgott-Roth bemoaned in the Daily Mail that American Jews are so liberal that Obama’s words won’t translate into a mass exodus from the President: “What else will Obama have to say to get Jews to change their votes?”
Also in The Washington Post, columnist Richard Cohen notes that this isn’t the first time that the “L” word has been used in reference to Bibi:
When it comes to Netanyahu, Obama is part of a throng of people — Israelis much more than Americans — who finds the man overbearing and duplicitous. Now we know Sarkozy feels the same way. If the peace process is affected by all this, then the fault is not Obama’s or Sarkozy’s, but Netanyahu’s. In the fractious Middle East, he is about the only thing world leaders can agree on.
Meanwhile, Media Matters points out that the president’s attackers are ignoring that the conversation took place while Obama was plugging for pro-Israel policies.
And Adam Kredo over at Washington Jewish Week tries to see both sides:
By talking smack about Bibi, Obama could be saying that he’s simply fed-up with what he views as an obstructionist Israeli government. However, I don’t see that in Obama’s pithy comments. In all likelihood, Obama is expressing his frustration with Netanyahu himself — a leader who’s been known to be quite difficult to handle.