WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama has a "very close working relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu. They speak very regularly," Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said Wednesday, days after Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy were overheard ridiculing the Israeli leader during a private exchange at the G20 summit in Cannes.
Briefing reporters at the White House, Rhodes said, "I think they've probably spent more time one on one than any other leader that the president has engaged in. That's rooted in the fact that the US and Israel share a deep security relationship but also a values-based relationship.
"I think our actions speak very loudly, which is that this president has taken security cooperation with Israel to unprecedented levels. He has stood up time and again against delegitimization of Israel – whether it's the Goldstone report, the flotilla or, of course, most recently, Palestine efforts to see unilateral measures at the UN to shortcut negotiations," he said.
"So our record speaks very clearly about the president's commitment to Israel, and he, again, I think, has maintained a very close working relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu where they've been able to communicate clearly on these issues," the American official added.
Rhodes told reporters that in the coming days Israeli and American officials will be discussing the "very important" International Atomic Energy Agency report on Iran's nuclear program. "So it's certainly true that we're going to be in close contact at a variety of levels with the Israeli government, and I think that speaks to the depth of our relationship," he said.
The double-presidential faux pas, which saw Sarkozy and Obama accidently tell the world what they really think of Netanyahu, caused a media frenzy this week, with many media outlets worldwide dubbing it "the juiciest thing since WikiLeaks."
French website "Arret sur Images" reported Monday that due to a technical glitch, the two presidents' microphones remained on after a G20 press conference, held last Thursday.
Once the junket was over, the two retired to a private room, and Sarkozy was overheard as saying that he "could not stand" Netanyahu and that he believed him to be "a liar."
According to the report, Obama replied: "You're fed up with him, but I have to deal with him every day!"
Reporters privy to the exchange were asked to sign a confidentiality agreement and withhold the report, but on Tuesday several French-speaking journalists, including ones form AP and Reuters confirmed that the exchange had indeed taken place.
Roi Simyoni contributed to the report
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