Bibi Is a Liar, So What's the Fuss?

We Should Be Happy Sarkozy Gave Honest Opinion

Truth Hurts: Many Jews were upset to hear French President Nicolas Sarkozy captured on an open microphone calling Benjamin Netanyahu a ‘liar.’ Why weren’t they happy to hear his honest opinion?
getty images
Truth Hurts: Many Jews were upset to hear French President Nicolas Sarkozy captured on an open microphone calling Benjamin Netanyahu a ‘liar.’ Why weren’t they happy to hear his honest opinion?

By Leonard Fein

Published November 20, 2011, issue of November 25, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Few stories that start out as potential bombshells end up as utterly duddish (from “dud”) as the “hot mic” exchange between Presidents Sarkozy and Obama. Duddish, that is, here in Israel, where I am for a couple of weeks; not so back home, in the States, as we shall see.

If I were a rich man, I’d immediately do a survey of Israeli public opinion, a survey with just two questions: (1) Do you believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu is a liar? (2) Do you hope that Prime Minister Netanyahu will stay in power for another term after the next elections?

Here’s how I expect the answers would go: A very substantial majority of Israeli voters would acknowledge that their Prime Minister is, indeed, a liar. A majority, albeit somewhat smaller, would endorse his continuing in power.

How can that be so?

The pervasive belief in Israel — and, be it noted, not only in Israel — is that all politicians are liars. So there’s nothing new in President Sarkozy’s blunt assertion. Moreover, the specific assessment of Netanyahu here has long included the sense that he has an aversion to the truth.

If all politicians are liars, you have to go with the liar who delivers. And there’s a widespread perception here that Netanyahu delivers. Specifically, there is broad agreement with his policy of blaming the collapse of the peace process exclusively on the Palestinians. Nor does the current Netanyahu-led effort to criminalize and otherwise restrict dissent arouse widespread outrage.

The more curious question is why such an unsurprising story kicked up such a tempest in the American Jewish community. After all, Netanyahu has been declared a liar not only by Sarkozy but also, months earlier, by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the hot mic that caught Sarkozy saying, “I can’t deal with Netanyahu any more, he is a liar,” also recorded President Obama’s rejoinder: “What about me? I have to deal with him every day.” None of these assessments, shared quite widely among other leaders, should surprise. Yet the Zionist Organization of America (which opposes the two-state solution Netanyahu allegedly endorses), in a state of high dudgeon, demands apologies, and the Anti-Defamation League expresses its profound concern.

As the ZOA misleadingly puts it, the Sarkozy/Obama “personal attacks on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu…demonstrated their hostility towards Israel. Presidents Obama and Sarkozy owe Prime Minister Netanyahu, the Israeli people and all supporters of Israel an apology.” One might have been entitled to suppose that even the ZOA was able to distinguish between personality and politics, perhaps even to remind people that the Obama expression of frustration took place during a conversation in which Obama was seeking French support to oppose Palestinian membership in UNESCO. To say nothing of the truly unprecedented military cooperation between Israel and the US. To say nothing of Obama’s UN speech, so fulsomely pro-Israel.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.