Sarkozy pledges friendship to Netanyahu in letter


JERUSALEM (JTA) — French President Nicolas Sarkozy pledged his friendship to Benjamin Netanyahu in a condolence letter written to the Israeli prime minister.

“You have my friendship, and our differing views on the problems of the Middle East, and the interpretations appearing in the media, have no effect on it,” Sarkozy wrote, according to Reuters, citing two unnamed Israeli officials in the prime minister’s office. The message was included in a letter of condolence to Netanyahu over the death of his father-in-law, Shmuel Ben-Artzi.

The message comes more than a week after reports that Sarkozy called the Israeli prime minister a "liar" and said that he "cannot stand him" during a private conversation with President Obama on Nov. 3 during the G-20 Summit.

Obama, who also made disparaging remarks against Netanyahu, also reportedly sent a condolence message but did not mention the incident. 

Obama addressed the content of his conversation with Sarkozy, including expressing his disappointment with France’s vote to give the Palestinians membership in the United Nations cultural agency, UNESCO, and excluding his private remarks about Netanyahu. 

“I had a very frank and firm conversation with President Sarkozy about that [UNESCO] issue, and that is consistent with both private and public statements that I’ve been making to everybody over the last several months," Obama told reporters after the incident came to light.

The Israeli government has not commented on Sarkozy’s most recent letter.

The French newspaper LeFigaro reported over the weekend that Sarkozy could come to Israel in January to clarify his statements in the private conversation, according to reports. While Sarkozy reportedly has agreed to the visit in a conversation with his former envoy to the Middle East, Valerie Hoffenberg, it has not officially been confirmed.

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