Former US secretary of defense Robert Gates disliked Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu so much that he once tried to ban him from the White House, Jeffrey Goldberg wrote on Monday in his column for Bloomberg.
Gates first met Netanyahu when the former was the deputy national security adviser to former president George H.W. Bush and Netanyahu served as Israel's deputy foreign minister.
“I was offended by his glibness and his criticism of US 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,” wrote Gates in his new book Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War.
During Netanyahu's tenure as prime minister, Gates had a good working relationship with then-defense minister Ehud Barak and together they worked to strengthen the IDF.
But Netanyahu, Gates writes, was "ungrateful" for the work Barack Obama's administration did on the defense front.
When Netanyahu asked Gates about counterbalancing an arms sale to Saudi Arabia and compensating on the Israeli side, Gates responded, exasperated, that "no US administration had done more, in concrete ways, for Israel's strategic defense than Obama's."
According to Goldberg, Gates believed Israel should welcome the arms sale to Saudi Arabia, and told Ehud Barak that "if Israel couldn’t see Saudi Arabia as a potential ally against Iran, he should at least tactically concede that its hostility to Iran was in Israel’s interest.”
The former defense secretary also expressed concern over Israel's future, suggesting Netanyahu's government does not fully understand the security and demographic realities in the region.
“I, as a very strong friend and supporter of Israel, believe Jerusalem needs to think anew about its strategic environment. 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,” he writes, according to excerpts posted on Bloomberg.
This is not the first time Netanyahu merits Gates' contempt. In a visit to Washington in May 2011, Netanyahu angered many in the Obama administration after lecturing the president in front of the cameras at a photo-op in the Rose Garden.
According to Goldberg, Gates later told the president that despite the many steps the US had taken to guarantee Israel's security - assistance with weapons, defense systems and intelligence sharing, it had received nothing in return, "particularly in regards to the peace process."
Netanyahu, Gates told Obama, was "not only ungrateful, but also endangering his country by refusing to grapple with Israel’s growing isolation and with the demographic challenges it faces if it keeps control of the West Bank."