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BLITZER’S BLOG:  Will open-mic comments hurt U.S.-Israeli relations?
November 8th, 2011
04:20 PM ET

BLITZER’S BLOG: Will open-mic comments hurt U.S.-Israeli relations?

By CNN's Wolf Blitzer

(CNN) - Political leaders should always be careful of what they say anytime they are near a microphone.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and President Obama have learned that again – painfully.

According to a Reuters correspondent, the two men were chatting in Cannes, France, the other day when Sarkozy, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said: “I cannot bear Netanyahu. He’s a liar.” To which, Obama reportedly replied: “You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you.”

The two men did not know reporters were listening.. But it has now come out.

This isn’t the first time that an open microphone has embarrassed world leaders – and it won’t be the last.

It does come at a very awkward time for President Obama who has been actively trying to improve his relationship with the Israeli prime minister. That relationship was seriously strained for much of the Obama administration over the issue of Israel’s continued settlement activity on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.

Still, the two men seemed to have worked through some of their differences during their most recent meeting in New York in September.

President Obama delivered what Netanyahu described as a very pro-Israel speech at the United Nations General Assembly.

In contrast, Netanyahu certainly didn’t like Obama’s State Department speech on the Middle East back in May.

I don’t know whether these latest comments will have any real impact on the U.S. relationship with Israel. My guess is they probably won’t. That’s because there have been many times over the decades when that relationship seemed very strained only to bounce back.

One example was in June 1990 when then-Secretary of State James Baker told Congress that the Bush administration was ready to walk away from the peace process because of Israel’s settlement activity.

“Everybody over there should know that the telephone number (of the White House) is 1-202-456-1414,” Baker testified. “When you’re serious about peace, call us.”

That was a pretty blunt warning to then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir who had just taken office.

Baker’s threat was also delivered over an open microphone. The difference was that he knew that the whole world was listening.

RELATED: Sarkozy, Obama bemoan Netanyahu over open mic

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Benjamin Netanyahu • Israel • Nicolas Sarkozy • Situation Room • Wolf Blitzer
soundoff (237 Responses)
  1. Solomon Davidson

    A non-story if ever there one, and one that probably resulted in a lot of sympathy for Obama.

    January 2, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
  2. Jerome

    Like the Israelis have already said, everybody talks about everybody. It's not a big deal at all, especially since the Israelis understand and accept that world leaders are just people.

    November 22, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  3. Frank Rizzo

    The truth always Hurt lol. Israel has killed US Navy Personnel the UUS Liberty, they have spied on the USG and Private companies stealing Billions of US and Private Top Secret information.

    No Israel is no friend of the US I say the heck with Israel that war monoging welfare state lol.

    November 9, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
  4. neville

    Those were mild non accusatory comments by our president .Is the state of Israel and jews beyond reproach?To me what is even more surprising is the utter arrogance of the so called pro Israel supporters.America's interest must always come first then Israel not the other way around.A true friend and good friend should always be allowed to critique the other for better or worse.Netanyahu is the disrespectful bully as evidenced by his recent display on American soil to our president.

    November 9, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  5. joe d

    who cares..they were telling the truth...Irael the land of beggars liars and theives...
    worst investment in U.S. history.

    November 9, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
  6. Ben

    Is their any one who is supprise at this revilation. We have all known that both men have had a difficult walking relationship.
    It has not stopped Obama's policies from supporting Isreal. He may not be a buddy to Netanyahu, but he have shown beyound all reasonable doubt that he is a friend to Isreal. The world have also seen that Netanyahu have not shown much effort toward peace.

    November 9, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  7. ED FL

    Israel has taken advantage of every President we have had in my 82 yrs. They push until they are on the verge of getting blown away or until the US threaten the [Suppposed aggressor according to Israel claim ] then the Us gives them billions more money or lets the aggressor know that the US is on Israels side. Then Israel sits down counting the money we give them while we put pressure on the supposed aggressor. Whenever we engage anyone in particular for Israels benefit they sit back and know they have outfoxed us again. Been like this my life time and 22 yrs in the military where we have always had their back ,front, Top or bottom. It is becoming to dangerous and expensive to keep up this charade.

    November 9, 2011 at 11:52 am |

    will it affect relations? we can hope.

    November 9, 2011 at 11:33 am |
  9. shugee

    Netanyahu has never been serious about middle east peace. Sometimes when you are a scumbag, you need to hear it from your friends before it sinks in.

    November 9, 2011 at 11:33 am |
  10. Perk

    CNN is playing the exact quote and you hear it clearly ! Why did you say that Obama ?

    November 9, 2011 at 10:02 am |
  11. Fred

    It is about time that Netanyahoo is put in his place. He has displayed his arrogance and a condescending tone on numerous occasions. If he represents the attitude of Israelis, then the Israelis will find that more and more people have turned their back on them. Carter was correct when he called Israel an apartheid state. Netanyahoo affirms it as their leader. They are a capitalistic theocracy, not a democracy. This is one thing that Obama got right, even if it happened by accident.

    November 9, 2011 at 8:43 am |
  12. Africain

    Big deal President Obama and Sarkozi said excactly what they suppose to say in public in the first place.

    If i were an American, honestly i will never vote as long as my vote doen't count unless my candidate got blessing of a loobying group APAC.

    What a shame! American leadership can not exercise their constitional right...freedom of expression when it cames to the spoiled children.

    You know, sometimes it is better to have a dictator that seizes power with guns and what have u because you know he is a fraud and you will never give him credibility, than having a puppet President that is "elected" to serve the interest of GROUPS. For, the former might deal with his fellows on equal footing, while the later will certainly step on ppl to serve his the cost of his fellow country men.

    A bon entendeur, merci!

    November 9, 2011 at 3:01 am |
  13. Norman

    LOL, Netanyuho looks like a liar, Obama and Zarkozy are just telling the truth...This won't hurt Obama, who are you kidding? 90% of Americans can't stand that creep, Netanyaho...

    November 9, 2011 at 12:45 am |
  14. Steve

    How could anty comment by Obama hurt US/Israeli relations? Obama has made it crystal clear in every one of his actions and speeches that he is a total appeaer to the Arabs and wants Israel to cave on thier own security.

    November 9, 2011 at 12:13 am |
  15. Karen

    As a French, American and Jew, thanks god some of our presidents are saying the truth about an Israeli government closer to fascism than anything else. Everyone has the right to leave in peace. Palestinians, Israelis, Protestants, Catholics, Muslims... so please stop this political nonsense! We need to focus on the real issues here! Being a bit more honest and respectful is certainly the way to go! I really don't think Netanyahu has any of these qualities. And it is about time for the US to support what the whole world agrees on! We need two separate states! Its time to end the occupation of Palestine. They have the right to leave!

    November 8, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
  16. HendersonNV

    Obama was speaking without his teleprompter. That's when we get to hear the real Obama.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
  17. yaon

    Obama embarrassed???? I think that Netanyahu should be. To have two world leaders talk about you like that says more about the Israeli PM than either the US or French presidets. These two were speaking candidlly with each other. The substance of their conversation is much more important than their being overheard. Leave it to the media to turn the meaning of this event on its head.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
  18. conoclast

    Microphones are everywhere, as are video cameras. One just has to be completely candid or be ever-vigilant. Or, as I suspect in The Prez' case, know fully well where the microphones are. Obama's nobody's fool!

    November 8, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
  19. Mike

    The one, President of the United States bowing in front of the King of Saudia, and the second one, President of Islamo-France, who praised the merits of the dictature of Lybia, next to his tent at the Elysée, and invited Assad as a guest of honour at the parade of a 14th of July ? A comedy ...

    November 8, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
  20. matinee

    I love USA and ISREAL. Don"t get me wrong. America is full of double-standard toward issue concerning Africa,Middle-East. What is wrong in palestine having her own state?They want peace in the world yet use United Nations to contribute hate around the world.What is United in United Nations? I call them disunited nations,until a spade is called a spade,Isreal should stop occupation on palastanian land so should America interfering in external affairs of a soverigne nations.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
  21. Smalltowner

    People say stuff like that all the, people who do buisness with each other ect.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
  22. PorkNBeans

    This is good news.
    Tired of Israel and their Western sanctioned genocide of the Palestinian people. Of course the MSM will never report that.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
  23. luvUamerica

    It has nothing to do with Israel. It has to do with Netanyahu. I think the news media, and Wolf Blitzer is blowing the wind in a direction where they want some king of conflict to happen. I think these two gentlemen were talking about a Prime Minister who is dishonest.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
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