So French President Nicolas Sarkozy, not knowing his microphone is hot, expresses his contempt for Bibi Netanyahu, calls him a liar, and President Barack Obama commiserates, lamenting the fact that he has to deal with Netanyahu even more than the French.
Ho hum. As Ecclesiastes would say, is there anything new under the sun?
Surely, there is nothing particularly surprising about a French leader condemning an Israeli leader. It's a law of nature, like gravity or the orbit of the earth around the sun. Indeed, Sarkozy is a lot better than his predecessor, Jacques Chirac, who practiced undisguised contempt toward Israel. When it comes to France and Israel, diminished expectations are in order.
And Obama? Well, for the first two years of his presidency he acted with condescension toward the democratically elected leader of the Israeli people. This year, however, after experiencing his self-confessed 'shellacking' during the mid-term elections, part of which was due to his perceived unfriendliness to the Jewish state, he decided to make nice with Bibi and treat him with the same respect he accords other world leaders, albeit without the warmth of the two-armed embrace he reserved for Hugo Chavez or the bow he accorded the King of Saudi Arabia.
A few weeks ago I published a column saying that even amid Obama's new posture toward Israel he could not be trusted with Israel's security. The reason: he believes that Israeli intransigence, rather than Islamist terror, is the principal obstacle to peace in the Middle East. In that column I was careful to condemn any insinuations that Obama bears any innate hostility to Israel. Nevertheless, Obama follows in the footsteps of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Israeli toughness, rather than Palestinian rejection of Israel's right to exist, is the reason for the continuation of the conflict.
I was criticized by some commentators for penning the column. Wasn't Obama the man who got up at the UN and supported Israel's refusal to recognize unilateral Palestinian statehood? Has he not supported Israel militarily? Indeed he was and indeed he has. The president deserves our community's thanks for his, albeit belated, public support of Israel. But it's good to hear now, from the President's own mouth, what he really thinks of Israel's democratically elected leader, when there are no voters around. This time the president thought that only a Frenchman who can't vote in the United States was his sole audience. Obama was unlucky, however. A man who rarely makes mistakes forgot to check that his mike was off.
Say what you want about Jimmy Carter but at least his disdain for Israel and its leadership was out in the open and consistent. Here is a man who compared Israel in the title of one of his books to apartheid South Africa. Likewise Clinton, who, as president, mostly treated Netanyahu with contempt, attacked him yet again just a few weeks ago as an obstacle to peace.
But Obama is a disappointment. If he despises Netanyahu, let him not play games with the American Jewish community and feign friendship for votes. After all, Obama came to the White House as the anti-politician, a man who was going to change the ways of Washington. A leader who was going to say what he means and mean what he says.
How disappointing to discover he is guilty of the same Beltway double-speak he once condemned. How disappointing to discover that our president is simply yet another politician.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach has just published of "Ten Conversations You Need to Have with Yourself." (Wiley) Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.