Continuing his bid to court Jewish voters unhappy with President Obama’s policy toward Israel, Mitt Romney Wednesday seized upon media reports that French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Obama exchanged unkind words about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
While the two leaders attended the G20 summit in Cannes last week. Sarkozy, apparently unaware that French journalists could hear him through headsets designed for simultaneous translation, reportedly said of Netanyahu: “I can’t stand to see him anymore, he’s a liar.”
To which Obama replied, according to French translation of his remarks, “You are fed up with him, but me, I have to deal with him every day.”
In a statement Wednesday, Romney questioned Obama’s commitment to Israel.
“President Obama’s derisive remarks about Israel’s prime minister confirm what any observer would have gleaned from his public statements and actions toward our longstanding ally, Israel,” the Republican presidential candidate said. “At a moment when the Jewish state is isolated and under threat, we cannot have an American president who is disdainful of our special relationship with Israel. We have here yet another reason why we need new leadership in the White House.”
Obama and Netanyahu have been, at times, at odds over issues such as the continued building of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. Asked about Obama’s remarks Tuesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney wouldn’t confirm the conversation took place. Instead, he reaffirmed U.S. opposition to the recent effort by Palestinian leaders to seek statehood through the United Nations.
“I don’t have any comment on the specific conversation. 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,” Carney said. “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.”
Romney has been working hard to cultivate support among Jewish voters—and has tapped into a network of Jewish bundlers who backed President George W. Bush and 2008 nominee John McCain. In September, he held a major fundraiser in New York, cosponsored by at least 40 Jewish Romney supporters, each of whom gave $10,000 apiece.