The presidents of America and France have aired complaints about the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in the course of a private conversation overhead by journalists, reports say. President Sarkozy went so far as to call Netanyahu a liar.
“I can’t stand him!” the Frenchman told his American counterpart in a would-be confidential discussion. Obama’s reply was “You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him every day!”
The exchange is alleged to have happened on Monday on the fringes of the G20 summit, following a media conference. According to the French website Arret Sur Images, the private conversation between the two was broadcast to a half-dozen-strong press crowd when microphones were accidentally left switched on.
The two leaders first discussed France’s vote in favor of Palestine’s accession to the UNESCO, which came as a surprise to the US, which opposed the move, the report says. The pair went on to pursue an undiplomatic discussion of Netanyahu’s personality.
The report further alleges that the journalists, who involuntarily witnessed the conversation, decided not to make it public due to its sensitive nature. The tensions between the Israeli leader and some of his Western partners, including Obama, are no big secret, but the differences have not been brought to the public eye in such blunt terms before.
The website does not reveal the identity of the journalists who leaked the story.
Politico author Ben Smith compared the exposé to the WikiLeaks’ “Cablegate revelations”: “Things that are widely understood, but not supposed to be spoken aloud.”