Sarkozy Calls Netanyahu A Liar

Sarkozy tells Obama Netanyahu is a “liar”

By Yann Le Guernigou | Reuters

PARIS (Reuters) – French President Nicolas Sarkozy branded Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “a liar” in a private conversation with President Barack Obama that was accidentally broadcast to journalists during last week’s G20 summit in Cannes.

“I cannot bear Netanyahu, he’s a liar,” Sarkozy told Obama, unaware that the microphones in their meeting room had been switched on, enabling reporters in a separate location to listen in to a simultaneous translation.

“You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you,” Obama replied, according to the French interpreter.

President Barack Obama meets with Israeli Prim...

The technical gaffe is likely to cause great embarrassment to all three leaders as they look to work together to intensify international pressure on Iran over its nuclear ambitions.

The conversation was not initially reported by the small group of journalists who overheard it because it was considered private and off-the-record. But the comments have since emerged on French websites and can be confirmed by Reuters.

White House press secretary Jay Carney declined to comment on the conversation when asked by reporters traveling with Obama to an event in Philadelphia.

Leaders arrival

Downing Street via Flickr

Obama’s apparent failure to defend Netanyahu is likely to be leapt on by his Republican foes, who are looking to unseat him in next year’s presidential election and have portrayed him as hostile to Israel, Washington’s closest ally in the region.

Pushing Netanyahu risks alienating Israel’s strong base of support among the U.S. public and in Congress.

Netanyahu’s office declined immediate comment.

Obama and Netanyahu have had a rocky relationship as U.S. efforts to broker a Middle East peace deal have foundered, with the U.S. president openly criticizing Jewish settlement building in the occupied Palestinian
territories.

It was unclear why exactly Sarkozy had criticized Netanyahu. However, European diplomats have largely blamed Israel for the breakdown in peace talks and have expressed anger over Netanyahu’s approval
of large-scale settlement building.

PALESTINIAN WORRIES

During their bilateral meeting on November 3, on the sidelines of the Cannes summit, Obama criticized Sarkozy’s surprise decision to vote in favor of a Palestinian request for membership of the U.N. cultural heritage agency UNESCO.

“I didn’t appreciate your way of presenting things over the Palestinian membership of UNESCO. It weakened us. You should have consulted us, but that is now behind us,” Obama was quoted as saying.

The October 31 UNESCO vote marked a success for the Palestinians in their broader thrust for recognition as a sovereign state in the U.N. system — a unilateral initiative fiercely opposed by Israel and the United States.

VIDEO…

As a result of the vote, Washington was compelled to halt its funding for UNESCO under a 1990s law that prohibits Washington from giving money to any U.N. body that grants membership to groups that do not have full, legal statehood.

Obama told Sarkozy that he was worried about the impact if Washington had to pull funding from other U.N. bodies such as the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and the IAEA nuclear watchdog if the Palestinians gained membership there.

“You have to pass the message along to the Palestinians that they must stop this immediately,” Obama said.

The day the conversation took place, the Palestinians announced that they would not seek membership of any other U.N. agency.

Sarkozy confirmed that France would not take any unilateral decisions when the U.N. Security Council discusses a Palestinian membership request, a debate expected later this month.

“I am with you on that,” Obama replied.

(Writing by Crispian Balmer)

Advertisements

Israel Sending Smoke Signals To Iran

Israel Sending Signals of Iranian Attack

(JERUSALEM) — An Israeli official said Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to persuade his Cabinet to authorize a military strike against Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program — a discussion that comes as Israel successfully tests a missile believed capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to Iran.

It remained unclear whether Israel was genuinely poised to strike or if it was saber-rattling to prod the international community into taking a tougher line on Iran. Israeli leaders have long hinted at a military option, but they always seemed mindful of the practical difficulties, the likelihood of a furious counterstrike and the risk of regional mayhem. (See “Is Israel Again Weighing an Attack on Iran’s Nuclear Facilities?”)

Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel's Prime Minister, m...

The developments unfolded as the International Atomic Energy Agency is due to focus on the Iranian program at a meeting later this month. The West wants to set a deadline for Iran to start cooperating with an agency probe of suspicions that Tehran is secretly experimenting with components of a weapons program.

Israeli leaders have said they favor a diplomatic solution, but recent days
have seen a spate of Israeli media reports on a possible strike, accompanied by veiled threats from top politicians.

In a speech to parliament this week, Netanyahu said a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a “dire threat” to the world and “a grave, direct threat on us, too.”

His hawkish foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, was dismissive of the
reports but added: “We are keeping all the options on the table.”

The government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing sensitive internal deliberations, told The Associated Press that the option is now being debated at the highest levels.

The official confirmed a report Wednesday in the Haaretz daily that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak both favor an attack, but do not yet have the support of a majority of Cabinet ministers. The official also said Israel’s top security chiefs, including the heads of the military and Mossad spy agency, oppose military action.

Two Israeli Defense Force-Air Force F-15I Ra'a...

It is generally understood that such a momentous decision would require a Cabinet decision. Israel’s 1981 destruction of Iraq’s nuclear reactor was
preceded by a Cabinet vote.

Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev refused to comment on the issue but did say there is a “decision-making process which has stood the test of time. … There have been precedents, and the process works.”

With most of its population concentrated in a narrow corridor of land along the Mediterranean, Israel’s homefront could be vulnerable to a
counterattack.

Iran’s military chief, Gen. Hasan Firouzabadi, said his country takes Israeli threats seriously and vowed fierce retaliation.

“We are fully prepared to use our proper equipment to punish any mistake so that it will cause a shock,” he said in comments posted on the website of the Guard, Iran’s most powerful military force.

Reflecting the mood in Israel, military expert Reuven Pedatzur wrote in
Haaretz that “if anyone can save Israel from catastrophe, it is the Israeli air force commander,” who might simply tell Netanyahu that an attack on Iran “cannot achieve its goals.”

Coat of arms of the Islamic Republic of Iran. ...

Several months ago, the newly retired head of the Mossad, Meir Dagan, caused a stir by warning publicly against attacking Iran, saying a strike would be “stupid” and would risk unleashing a region-wide war.

See “What Do Israel’s Leaders Really Think About Iran?”
See why Israel outlawed business with Iran.

Israel considers Iran to be its greatest threat, citing Tehran’s nuclear
program, its president’s repeated calls for destroying the Jewish state and
Iran’s support for the Hamas and Hezbollah militant groups. For years, Israeli leaders have implored the world community to impose tough economic sanctions to pressure the Iranians to dismantle their nuclear installations.

The key element now is time. Israeli estimates of when Iran might be able to produce a nuclear weapon have been fluid, with Dagan giving a 2015 date when he left office. But some reports have suggested officials consider the coming months critical.

The successful test Wednesday of an advanced long-range Israeli missile, along with word of a recent air force exercise, seemed to fit into that scenario.

Barak hailed the launch as “an impressive technological achievement and an important step in Israel’s rocket and space progress.” (See “The Worm in Iran’s Nuke Program: Made in Israel?”)

An Israeli defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity under
government policy, said the military tested a “rocket propulsion system” in a launch from the Palmachim base near Tel Aviv.

Further information about the test was censored by the military. Foreign
reports, however, said the military test-fired a long-range Jericho missile — capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and striking Iran.

Also Wednesday, military officials confirmed that the air force conducted a drill last week with Italian warplanes in Sardinia. Israeli warplanes were
joined by supply and logistics aircraft.

Map of Israel, the Palestinian territories (We...

There were no details on the purpose of the drill. Israeli TV stations ran an interview with one of the pilots who participated, identified only as Lt. Col. Yiftah, who said it allowed the air force to simulate longer-distance
missions.

“The advantage here,” he said, “is that we can fly in a very large area, much larger than we can in Israel.” He said there were “complicated flights with many planes.”

A military strike would hardly be unprecedented. Besides the 1981 strike,
Israeli warplanes destroyed a site in Syria in 2007 that the U.N. nuclear
watchdog deemed a secretly built nuclear reactor.

But attacking Iran would be a much more difficult task. It is a more distant
target, and Israeli warplanes would probably have to go over hostile airspace in Syria, Iraq or Saudi Arabia to reach it. Turkey could be an alternative — but its relations with Israel are fraught.

Iran’s nuclear facilities also are believed to be spread out across many
sites, buried deep underground.

The Iranian military is far more powerful than those of Syria or Iraq,
equipped with sophisticated anti-aircraft defense systems as well as powerful medium-range missiles capable of striking anywhere in Israel.

An Israeli attack would also likely spark retaliation from local Iranian
proxies, the Hamas militant group in the Gaza Strip to Israel’s south and
Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon along Israel’s northern border. And it would reorder priorities in a region now consumed by the Arab Spring and the Palestinian issue.

Some have speculated that the United States — or even Britain — might be better poised to carry out a strike.

Iran denies it aims to produce a bomb, saying its nuclear program is meant only for energy. It has blamed Israel for disruptions in its nuclear program, including the mysterious deaths of Iranian nuclear scientists and a computer virus that wiped out some of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges, a key component in nuclear fuel production.

Western powers, like Israel, do not believe Tehran and already have imposed four rounds of sanctions on the Iranian government in an effort to make it put its program, which can make both nuclear fuel or fissile warhead material, under international supervision.

Israel would like to see the United States and other powers “pressure Iran
more seriously … first with more sanctions, and if they don’t work, to go to
war with Iran,” said Eldad Pardo, an Iran expert at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

See “Is the Mossad Targeting Iran’s Nuclear Scientists?”
See “Can the U.S. Contain Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions?”

Associated Press writers Amy Teibel and Ian Deitch contributed to this report.