In Overheard Comments, Sarkozy Calls Netanyahu a ‘Liar’
By ISABEL KERSHNER
“You are fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you,” Mr. Obama replied, according to reports that flooded the main Israeli news sites on Tuesday.
The Israeli prime minister’s office refused to comment. An Israeli official, speaking on the condition of anonymity for diplomatic reasons, acknowledged that given the once-close personal ties between Mr. Sarkozy and Mr. Netanyahu, “it all comes as a surprise.”
The publication of the comments, bound to embarrass all three allies, came at a delicate juncture hours before the imminent release of a significant report on
The remarks were first reported by a French Web site, Arrêt Sur Images, on Monday. They were subsequently confirmed by The Associated Press, which had a representative among those who overheard the conversation. Reuters also confirmed the comments.
A pool of reporters was in a separate location from the leaders, according to the agencies, waiting for the time when they would be allowed to monitor public remarks. The French reporters were given a device used to transmit simultaneous translations, but not headsets. But some plugged their own earphones in, catching about three minutes of the private conversation between Mr. Sarkozy and Mr. Obama, and the translation of each man’s comments into the other’s language, according to a reporter for The A.P.’s French service.
“It was brief and confusing,” the reporter said. “It was a private conversation in a separate room, and I could sense that they did not know they were being overheard.”
Both The A.P. and Reuters said that they did not initially report the comments because they were deemed off the record.
While Israeli and American officials routinely describe relations between the countries as unshakeable and strong, and Israel regards France as a friendly country, the comments clearly underscored frustration that has swirled from the failure to restart peace talks and avoid a confrontation at the United Nations and its agencies over the Palestinians’ request for recognition as a state. There have been periods of palpable tension between Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu, mostly over continued Israeli construction in the West Bank and
The comments came at an inopportune moment for dealing with those issues as well. The State Department announced Tuesday that international mediators from the
“We’ve had a cycle of action and reaction that we thought was counterproductive and difficult,” said the department’s spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, adding that the next meetings were intended to “improve the atmosphere.”
For its part,
Describing the longstanding acquaintance between Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Sarkozy, the Israeli official said that the two were introduced by a mutual friend and had gotten to know each other while Mr. Sarkozy was the mayor of Neuilly-sur-Seine. The official added that the two used to go out to dinner in
Maïa de la Baume contributed reporting from Paris, and Steven Lee Myers from
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