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Obama Shoe Photo Seen As "Insult" By Some Israelis

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A photograph of President Obama has caused some controversy in Israel.

White House photographer Pete Sousa on Monday snapped a photo of the president while he talked on the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

In the photo, Obama has his feet propped up on a desk inside the Oval Office, and a number of Israeli newscasters last night called the posture insulting, since in many Arab countries, it is considered an insult to show someone the sole of your shoe.

While the shoe-sole taboo is not a Jewish custom necessarily, the reaction to the photo is a telling indication of the way some Israeli commenters are adjusting to the new U.S. administration's approach to the Middle East.

It was widely reported in the both Israeli and U.S. press after Netanyahu's visit to Washington last month that meetings between the two leaders had been tense, and President Obama's speech in Egypt last week also raised some eyebrows in Israel.

An article in Haaretz - which, incidentally, is considered to be one of the more liberal-leaning Israeli dailies - interpreted the photo like this:

A photo released by the White House, which shows Obama talking on the phone with Netanyahu on Monday, speaks volumes: The president is seen with his legs up on the table, his face stern and his fist clenched, as though he were dictating to Netanyahu: "Listen up and write 'Palestinian state' a hundred times. That's right, Palestine, with a P." As an enthusiast of Muslim culture, Obama surely knows there is no greater insult in the Middle East than pointing the soles of one's shoes at another person. Indeed, photos of other presidential phone calls depict Obama leaning on his desk, with his feet on the floor.


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