Home Truths on the Croisette (Cannes)

In an unguarded ("live-mic-ed") conversation in the margins of the G-20 Summit, President Sarkozy said he couldn't bear Benjamin Netanyahu any longer and went on to describe him as a "liar." President Obama replied, "You are fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you."

Netanyahu has promised "painful concessions" if only negotiations with the Palestinians would start again, without preconditions. Yet he keeps on creating settlements on land that is supposed to be going back to the Palestinians, according to United Nations resolutions. The most diplomatic formulation to explain this is that Netanyahu has a hidden agenda.

Netanyahu has flouted President Obama twice, on settlements and on borders. He has alienated just about every foreign leader, including the most pro-Israeli French president since the start of the Fifth Republic in 1958 -- Sarkozy being one-quarter Jewish on his mother's side. Netanyahu has blown the Israeli special relationship with Turkey, and he is bound to encounter some push-back from a new democratic regime in Egypt (which would not, however, repudiate the existing Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty).

What can one conclude from all this? That Netanyahu is a major part of the problem. In a strong political position at home, he is almost universally disliked abroad. Given this contradiction between his internal and external position, the bottom line is that we will just have to wait for future events to unfold. The only glimmer of hope is that the Israeli public is traditionally not comfortable with the idea that the leader of the country is on less than good terms with an American Administration.

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