Early last week at the G20 summit in Paris, a hot microphone picked up a private conversation between President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy in which the two leaders were griping about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“You’ve had enough of him, but I have to deal with him every day,” Obama reportedly said after Sarkozy called the Israeli leader a liar.
President Obama was finally asked about the exchange in a Sunday afternoon press conference in Honolulu. NBC White House correspondent Chuck Todd asked Obama to “clarify” his end of that conversation dealing with the Israeli prime minister, but Obama declined to elaborate on it, only saying that his private position on Israel is no different from what he says in public.
“With respect to the hot mic in France, I am not going to comment on the conversation I have with individual leaders,” Obama said. “But what I will say is this: The primary conversation I had with President Sarkozy in that meeting revolved around my significant disappointment that France had voted in favor of the Palestinians joining UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization], knowing full well that under our laws that would require the United States from cutting off funding to UNESCO.”
“After I had consistently made the argument that the only way we are going to solve the Middle East situation is if Palestinians and Israelis sit down at the table and negotiate – it is not going to work to do an end run through the United Nations,” Obama continued. “So, I had a very frank and firm conversation with President Sarkozy about that issue and that is consistent with private and public statements that I have been making to everybody over the last several months.”