The relationship between former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the government of Israel is a complicated one (as I reported in this post). But Gates's feelings about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu are simple -- and not flattering.
Gates’s new book, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” is filled with extraordinary observations on a range of subjects (he has surprisingly strong and developed views about Bolivia), but I thought I would highlight his apparent loathing for Netanyahu, whom he first met when he was a deputy national security adviser to President George H.W. Bush and Netanyahu was Israel’s deputy foreign minister.
Gates writes that he found Netanyahu so offensive that he once tried to get him banned from the White House: “I was offended by his glibness and his criticism of U.S. policy -- not to mention his arrogance and outlandish ambition -- and I told national security adviser Brent Scowcroft that Bibi ought not be allowed back on White House grounds.”
Lest you think that Gates has hard feelings about other Israeli leaders, or Israel itself, I would note that he goes out of the way to express an emotional attachment to the Jewish state. In reference to a welcoming ceremony at the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv, he writes that “seeing the Stars and Stripes and the Star of David flying together always moved me.” He also makes repeated mention of his close relationship with Ehud Barak, the former prime minister and former defense minister, and expresses obvious pride in the work he did at the Defense Department to strengthen Israel’s military.
(He writes that Netanyahu was ungrateful for the work the Barack Obama administration did on this front, and made Gates furious during a conversation about American arms sales to Saudi Arabia. According to Gates, Netanyahu asked him, “What about a counterbalancing investment in our military? How do we compensate on the Israeli side?” Gates goes on to write: “Exasperated, I shot back that no U.S. administration had done more, in concrete ways, for Israel’s strategic defense than Obama’s.”)
Gates also writes that he is very worried about Israel’s future, and particularly about the policies of the Netanyahu government, which he suggests, has not yet adequately grappled with security and demographic reality. “I, as a very strong friend and supporter of Israel, believe Jerusalem needs to think anew about its strategic environment,” Gates writes. “That would require developing stronger relationships with governments that, while not allies, share Israel’s concerns in the region, including those about Iran and the growing political influence of Islamists in the wake of the Arab Spring. … Given a Palestinian birthrate that far outpaces that of Israeli Jews, and the political trends in the region, time is not on Israel’s side.”
WATCH: Jeffrey Goldberg discusses "Duty" on NBC's "Meet the Press"