Israel’s Channel 1 has published what it says is a Hebrew transcript of the phone call between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last Sunday, during which the president called for an immediate cease-fire. The Times of Israel provides an English translation:
Barack Obama: I demand that Israel agrees to an immediate, unilateral ceasefire and halt all offensive activities, in particular airstrikes.
Benjamin Netanyahu: And what will Israel receive in exchange for a ceasefire?
BO: I believe that Hamas will cease its rocket fire — silence will be met with silence.
BN: Hamas broke all five previous ceasefires. It’s a terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel.
BO: I repeat and expect Israel to stop all its military activities unilaterally. The pictures of destruction in Gaza distance the world from Israel’s position.
BN: Kerry’s proposal was completely unrealistic and gives Hamas military and diplomatic advantages.
BO: Within a week of the end of Israel’s military activities, Qatar and Turkey will begin negotiations with Hamas based on the 2012 understandings, including Israel’s commitment to removing the siege and restrictions on Gaza.
BN: Qatar and Turkey are the biggest supporters of Hamas. It’s impossible to rely on them to be fair mediators.
BO: I trust Qatar and Turkey. Israel is not in the position that it can choose its mediators.
BN: I protest because Hamas can continue to launch rockets and use tunnels for terror attacks –
BO: (interrupting Netanyahu) The ball’s in Israel’s court, and it must end all its military activities.
The U.S. National Security Council and Netanyahu’s office have both issued denials that the transcript bears “any resemblance to reality,” and it’s already coming in for some mockery online. Channel 1 is standing by its report, saying it was leaked by a "senior American official."
Even assuming that this is an English conversation translated into Hebrew and then back to English, it doesn’t really seem much like how either leader—or anyone, for that matter—talks. Remember, these are two men who speak a common language and, while transparently not very fond of each other, have conversed on many previous occasions and presumably have some basic understanding of each other's views. Obama’s lines in particular seem like non sequitur parodies of his positions: “I trust Qatar and Turkey!”
I can't help imagining some other "conversations" conducted along these lines:
Vladimir Putin: But Mr. President, can't you understand my government's concerns about the overthrow of a democratically elected, pro-Russian government on our borders?
Barack Obama: Pro-Russian governments cannot be tolerated. We will pick off your allies one by one and undermine your government. Surrender now to the forces of American hegemony and the homosexual agenda.
* * *
Xi Jinping: President Obama, China has long-standing historical claims to those islands.
Barack Obama: Japan is our greatest ally. We think Japan should get whatever it wants. We feel threatened by your peaceful rise. Free Tibet.
* * *
Ted Cruz: We just think people should have the right to make their own decisions about their medical care. Is that so unreasonable?
Barack Obama: Yes. The government knows what's best for the people. We must seize the means of production.
* * *
Mr. Wilson: Thank you for coming in. I was just hoping we could have a word about Sasha's math scores. We ...
Barack Obama: (interrupting) Sasha says she deserves an A. I trust Sasha. Sasha will receive an A. I expect you to do this. The ball's in your court.
Even if, as seems likely, the transcript is fake, it certainly managed to make the rounds today, with State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki asked about it at today’s press briefing. Something tells me that it will have a long afterlife online.