Both Obama and Sarkozy are beset by domestic problems (linked in large part to the Eurozone crisis in Sarkozy’s case), and both leaders are facing the prospect of defeat in elections next year. And they’re growing increasingly frustrated by Netanyahu’s understandable reluctance to hand them a foreign policy triumph by acceding to sufficient Palestinian demands to facilitate serious peace talks. Sarkozy and other European leaders also hope such progress will go some way to quieting their restive Muslim populations.
But the timing is unfortunate to say the least. Speculation about an Israeli or US attack on Iranian nuclear installations has been mounting ahead of the publication of a report by the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, which is said to conclude that Iran is actively seeking to develop nuclear weapons – news which will come as a surprise to no-one except the most wishful-thinking doves in the US and European foreign policy establishments. France, true to form, is already indicating that it will oppose strikes against Iran.
Obama will hopefully be pressed on the exchange – he should be asked, for example, to clarify whether on not he agrees with Sarkozy that Netanyahu is a liar, and why, if he doesn’t agree, he didn’t take issue with the remark. His chances of winning back some of the Jewish voters who abandoned him in the wake of the row with Netanyahu are likely to suffer.
As for Sarkozy, he’ll have even more explaining to do.