By U.S. Rep. Elton Gallegly
Sometimes an overheard comment sheds some light on the truth. That certainly was the case at the G-20 economic meeting in France recently when French President Sarkozy and President Obama discussed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"I cannot stand him. He is a liar," Sarkozy said of Netanyahu. In apparent agreement, Obama replied, "You're fed up with him, but I have to deal with him every day."
While the French and American presidents have previously and repeatedly voiced their strong support and friendship for Israel while in public, their candid comments, which they thought were private, make you wonder about their own veracity, if not their hypocrisy.
The Sarkozy and Obama comments also make you wonder: If they don't like working with Israel's prime minister, which world leaders do they like? The Palestinian's Abbas? Russia's Putin? Syria's Assad? Or Iran's Ahmadinejad? Do Sarkozy and Obama think these leaders are more honest than Benjamin Netanyahu, who won his office in a fair and open democratic election?
Israel is the only stable democracy in the Middle East and the only U.S. friend in that important region that is 100 percent in support of the United States. Israel faces growing threats in every direction. Now more than ever, Israel needs the support of its friends.
The "Arab spring" has destabilized Israel's neighbors. Egypt's former president, Mubarak, is on trial; Egypt's adherence to the Camp David Accords is under attack; and the Muslim Brotherhood works to take control. Syria's Assad is clinging to power through a brutal, ruthless crackdown that has killed thousands. Islamic militants also are trying to assert power in Yemen, Tunisia, and Libya.
In Jordan, King Abdullah's reforms have not quieted dissent. Lebanon remains a flashpoint thanks to Iranian surrogate Hezbollah. Hamas, another Iranian-backed group, continues its non-stop terror barrage on Israeli civilians from Gaza.
Turkey's Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is increasingly hostile to Israel, cancelling defense cooperation with the Jewish state as he moves Turkey towards being an Islamic, secular nation.
And, in perhaps the biggest threat Israel and the U.S. face, the International Atomic Energy Agency has just reported new details about Iran's attempts to build nuclear weapons.
Despite all these dangers to Israel, what does the Obama Administration criticize? The plan for Israel to build additional housing for its citizens within its capital city, Jerusalem.
Just two days after the Sarkozy-Obama comments about Israel's Prime Minister became public, White House advisor Dennis Ross, one of Obama's lead officials in handling the Middle East peace process and U.S. policy toward Iran, announced he is leaving the administration. Perhaps Obama's comments about Netanyahu made Ross' already tough job impossible.
The friction between Obama and Netanyahu has been clear for some time. It became very evident in May when the President raised the unacceptable prospect of a return to Israel's indefensible pre-1967 borders as a means of advancing the peace process. Netanyahu rightly rejected the idea.
Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians continue to be stalled, and Obama is frustrated with Israel. But which side is truly intransigent? As former Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban used to say, the Palestinians "never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity."
It is the Palestinians who repeatedly have rejected Israeli peace initiatives including very generous offers by former Israeli Prime Ministers Olmert and Barak.
It is the Palestinians who tried to circumvent direct talks with Israel to gain recognition at the United Nations.
It is the Palestinians who claim to support a two-state solution while privately saying that they consider the entirety of Israel -- every inch -- to be "occupied territory."
The real problem in the Middle East is that the Palestinians really do not want to make peace with Israel. The truth is the Palestinians, like their Iranian supporters, want Israel to cease to exist.
President Obama has chosen to sharply criticize Israel's leader in a time of increasing peril for that beleaguered nation. Our friends in Israel deserve better.
Republican Rep. Elton Gallegly represents Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in Congress and is Vice Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration.