A freshman House Republican is calling for President Obama to apologize for a private conversation he had with French President Nicolas Sarkozy at last week’s G-20 summit in which both leaders were caught by a “hot” microphone criticizing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“I find President Obama’s criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu highly offensive and call on him to issue a formal apology on behalf of the American people,” Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) said in a statement Tuesday. “Whether the microphones are on or off, the message to our allies in Israel should always remain the same: ‘We stand with you.’”
The conversation between Obama and Netanyahu had not initially been reported, but Reuters on Tuesday published the remarks after the news of the exchange surfaced on French Web sites.
“I cannot bear Netanyahu; he’s a liar,” Sarkozy told Obama at the Cannes summit, according to Reuters.
Obama responded, “You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you.”
Grimm called Obama’s comments “disgraceful and inappropriate coming from someone who holds the highest office in the United States.”
“They provide a poor and inaccurate reflection of the American people he was elected to represent, and they must be rescinded,” he said.
The White House has declined to comment on the incident.
“I don’t have any comment on the specific conversation,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters at Tuesday’s daily briefing when asked about the exchange. “What I can say more broadly is that this president’s position has been quite clear on the issue of efforts by the Palestinians to achieve through the United Nations what can only be achieved effectively through direct negotiations. And the President believes very firmly that both sides, the Israelis and the Palestinians, need to take those steps that bring them closer together to direct negotiations and not ones that make it harder to have that happen.”
The incident is likely to further up the number of lawmakers who have voiced concern about Obama’s stance on Israel. After Republicans won a September House special election for the seat former held by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), some congressional Democrats argued that voters had used the race to “send a message” to Obama regarding his Israel policy.