Obama Acknowledges Gaffe Over Netanyahu Insult but Refuses to Elaborate

U.S. President Obama refuses to discuss the conversation he had November 3 with French President Sarkozy in which they were accidentally overheard disparaging Prime Minister Netanyahu.

U.S. President Barack Obama mentioned on Sunday morning the embarrassing gaffe that took place on November 3, when what he thought a private conversation between himself and French President Nicolas Sarkozy was broadcast to reporters.

Obama acknowledged the incident but refused to comment on disparaging remarks he and Sarkozy had made about Prime Minister Netanyahu. “With respect to the ‘hot mic’ in France, I'm not going to comment on conversations that I have with individual leaders,” Obama said in Hawaii.

Obama, Sarkozy at G20 in Cannes - AFP - November 2011

Unaware that a microphone in the meeting room at the G20 summit at Cannes was on , Sarkozy was heard on November 3 calling Netanyahu "a liar" in what he thought was a private exchange with Obama.

"I cannot bear Netanyahu, he's a liar," Sarkozy told Obama, who was also unaware that the mic had been turned on and was being monitored by reporters via the headsets used for simultaneous translations.

Obama didn't exactly defend Netanyahu in that conversation, either. "You're fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you," Obama replied, according to wire service reports.

Though he declined to comment on the reference to Netanyahu, Obama elaborated on the content of the rest of his conversation with Sarkozy.

“The primary conversation I had with President Sarkozy in that meeting revolved around my significant disappointment that France had voted in favor of the Palestinians joining UNESCO, knowing full well that under our laws, that would require the United States cutting off funding to UNESCO,” said Obama.

“After I had consistently made the argument that the only way we're going to solve the Middle East situation is if Palestinians and Israelis sit down at the table and negotiate; that it is not going to work to try to do an end run through the United Nations.” Obama continued.

Obama added, “I had a very frank and firm conversation with President Sarkozy about that issue. And that is consistent with both private and public statements that I've been making to everybody over the last several months.

Several journalists, including a few from large media organizations, heard the initial exchange between Obama and Sarkozy but did not initially report it, agreeing among themselves that to do so would be a violation of journalistic ethics. The remarks appeared Tuesday on a relatively obscure French website that deals with media criticism.

Obama has been restraining himself so as not to alienate voters before the 2012 presidential election, but his distaste for Netanyahu is well-known.