The already tense relationship between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is being tested anew this week, following the publication of an exchange Obama had with French President Nicolas Sarkozy when neither realized his microphone was on. In what Obama and Sarkozy thought was a private conversation during last week's G20 summit in Cannes, the French leader told Obama that Netanyahu is "a liar." Obama reportedly responded, "You're fed up with him? I have to deal with him every day." Will such "trash talk" damage America's relationship with its closest Mideast ally?
This makes it harder for Israelis to trust Obama: President Obama's response "implies that he agrees with the French leader," Anti-Defamation League director Abe Foxman tells TIME. Obama has some explaining to do, and his administration will have to work hard "to reassure Israel that the relationship remains on a sure footing." The level of trust between Obama and Netanyahu "clearly is not what it should be," and this wound won't heal on its own.
"Sarkozy to Obama: "I cannot bear Netanyahu. He's a liar"
This is awkward, but hardly crippling: Restarting peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians gets harder as Western leaders' "relationships with Netanyahu get worse," says Max Fisher at The Atlantic. We're already at odds: Netanyahu is pushing Washington to accept his policy of "unrestrained settlement growth," and Obama thinks that's counterproductive. But prickly as Bibi and Obama's relationship may be, "a few hot mic gaffes" aren't enough to overshadow the shared interests behind the U.S.-Israel alliance.
"Sarkozy, Obama don't like Netanyahu: Can bad diplomacy change history?"
It's no surprise the West is fed up with Bibi: "The exchange between Sarkozy and Obama is not exceptional," says Barak Ravid in Israel's Haaretz. "It represents the increasing contempt and frustration many world leaders feel for Netanyahu." He promised three years ago to "deliver 'surprises' with regard to the peace process and implement historic measures." That hasn't happened, and "many world leaders have stopped believing him."
"The Sarkozy-Obama exchange reflects the world's growing frustration with Netanyahu"