What Obama really thinks of Netanyahu
Editor's note: Aaron David Miller is a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and served as a Middle East negotiator in Democratic and Republican administrations. His new book "Can America Have Another Great President?" will be published by Bantam Books in 2012.
Washington (CNN) -- The open mike I-wish-I-hadn't-said-that moment when French President Nicolas Sarkozy called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a "liar" and Barack Obama didn't disagree is a tale as old as the hills for American presidents and secretaries of state.
For decades, American presidents and diplomats have been locked in uneasy relationships with Israeli prime ministers from the Likud Party. One example: "Who's the f---- superpower here," a frustrated Bill Clinton exploded to his aides after his first meeting with Netanyahu in 1996.
It's a good thing for Obama that the open mike caught Sarkozy with the ad hominem attack on Netanyahu rather than the president.
"I can't stand him. He's a liar," Sarkozy said. Obama was heard to say, "You're tired of him -- what about me? I have to deal with him every day," according to a French website.
I'm sure many people would have loved to have heard more of what Obama thinks. There's no doubt that Obama is frustrated and angry in the extreme with what he perceives to be Netanyahu's recalcitrance when it comes to Arab-Israeli peacemaking.
Indeed if there was a cartoon bubble over the president's head, I guarantee you his sentiments would have matched or even exceeded, Sarkozy's. When it comes to "Bibi" Netanyahu, our somewhat detached and cool president is hot and very combustible. When Netanyahu was dismissively lecturing the president during their press conference last June in Washington, the look on Obama's face was somewhere between mortification and raw anger. If looks could kill, we would have had a new Israeli Prime Minister by now.
U.S.-Israeli relations on any number of issues are extremely close, even intimate; and the Iran nuclear challenge will almost certainly make them even closer. But the Arab-Israeli peace issue seems to bring out the worst in both sides, and it has for years now.