Sarkozy and Boorish Obama Badmouth Bibi
Sarkozy and Boorish Obama Badmouth Bibi

The presidents of France and the United States traded disparaging remarks about Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu during a private conversation at the G20 summit, only to find out that their microphones were still on. Whoops!

During their discussion at the summit in Cannes, presidents Sarkozy and Obama were overheard by reporters complaining about the Israeli leader. Sarkozy, who made headlines last month by repeatedly making comments to the media about how the existence of a Jewish state is "silly" and a "meaningless" idea, was kvetching to President Obama about the Israeli PM.

"I cannot bear Netanyahu," said Sarkozy, "he's a liar."

Not to be outdone, President Barack Obama is said to have replied: "You're fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you."
 
Of course, the presidents were unaware that their microphones were active, and hence, their slander of Netanyahu was meant to be private. But that's of little consolation to Israel supporters who feel that the exchange is indicative of a pervasive anti-Israel bias in the current presidential administration. Sarkozy's remarks are perhaps less surprising in light of his openly anti-Israel statements of late.

Both Sarkozy and Obama have elections coming up soon. Needless to say, the presidential faux pas has caused a flurry of activity among political organizations and individual leaders, from the city council all the way to Capitol Hill.

The Anti-Defamation League was among the first to express its "disappointment" over the remarks.  Speaking for the ADL, National Director Abe Foxman said:
 
"We are deeply disappointed and saddened by this decidedly un-Presidential exchange between Presidents Sarkozy and Obama. President Obama's response to Mr. Sarkozy implies that he agrees with the French leader.  In light of the revelations here, we hope that the Obama Administration will do everything it can to reassure Israel that the relationship remains on a sure footing and to reinvigorate the trust between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, which clearly is not what it should be."

What is sad," Foxman added, "is that we now have to worry to what extent these private views inform foreign policy decisions of the U.S. and France - two singularly important players in the peace process."



What is sad," Foxman added, "is that we now have to worry to what extent these private views inform foreign policy decisions of the U.S. and France - two singularly important players in the peace process."

Closer to home for us Brooklynites, New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind was a bit more tongue-in-cheek in his response to the gaffe.
 
"I want to personally thank President Obama," said Hikind "for again showing his true colors."



"Mr. Obama's unbridled contempt for Prime Minister Netanyahu, though appalling, is really not terribly surprising," Hikind observed, adding that it was nonetheless conduct unbecoming the President of the United States.
 
"It is moments like these," intoned the assemblyman, "that make me even prouder that I endorsed Republican Congressman Bob Turner in the 9th Congressional District race despite my Democratic Party affiliation. Congressman Turner's win sent a message to President Obama that Democrats will not follow him blindly into re-election."

Indeed, criticism of Obama and Sarkozy's remarks wasn't limited to the Jewish community. Next up on the soapbox, Congressman Michael Grimm (a Republican representing Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn) called the comments "highly offensive" and demanded of President Obama "a formal apology on behalf of the American people."

"Whether the microphones are on or off," Grimm declared, "the message to our allies in Israel should always remain the same: 'We stand with you.'"



"President Obama's comments are disgraceful and inappropriate coming from someone who holds the highest office in the United States," said Rep. Grimm. "They provide a poor and inaccurate reflection of the American people he was elected to represent, and they must be rescinded."

I am reminded of a classic Chassidic story where a man, who had been spreading lashon hara (gossip) about a certain rabbi came to regret his misdeed, and sought to make amends. The rabbi told the man, "Take a feather pillow, cut it open, and scatter the feathers to the winds." The man thought this was an odd request, but it was a simple enough task, and so he did it gladly.

When he returned to tell the rabbi that he had done as he was asked, the rabbi said: "Now, go and gather the feathers. Because you can no more make amends for the damage your words have done than you can recollect the feathers." So too in this case, the damage is done.

These politicians and assorted communal leaders, clearly seizing an opportunity to advance their own "Jew cred," (a term I'm fairly certain I just made up), were nonetheless correct in their assessment.

Regardless of your own views regarding Israel in general, or Netanyahu in particular, this sort of behavior is something one would expect to find in a school yard, not an international meeting of heads of state (though, among grade school students, it would likely result in some sort of punishment).

I'm not saying that Presidents Obama and Sarkozy should be made to sit in the corner for the rest of the day, dunce caps on their heads. But...no, wait. You know what? That's exactly what I'm saying.