Freshly retired US defense secretary Robert Gates was highly critical of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, calling him an ungrateful ally and blaming him for diplomatically isolating Israel and hurting American interests, a Bloomberg column revealed Tuesday.

The criticism, reported in a piece by Jeffrey Goldberg, apparently peaked after Netanyahu met with US President Barack Obama last May, lecturing him in front of the cameras on the Israeli security situation with a level of "impudence" that shocked many in the White House, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

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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."

Gates's statments, Goldberg wrote, "articulated bluntly" what many in the administration believe

The column added that Netanyahu had peeved Gates before, lecturing him during a meeting in March on the dangers posed to Israel by US arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Gates reminded him then, Goldberg stated, that the sales were carried out after consultation with Israel and pro-Israel members of Congress.

The criticism of Netanyahu, and growing resentment of him in the White House, came just weeks before the US may have to come to Israel's aid once more, using its veto at the UN Security Council when the Palestinian Authority petitions for statehood recognition at the international body. In light of this, the column warned, the US may oppose the Palestinian statehood bid "in spite of Netanyahu, [and] not to help him."

Meanwhile, US Ambassador Dan Shapiro, who gave his first public address in Israel Monday since his arrival two months ago, emphasized America’s ongoing commitment to Israel’s security and said that Obama had expanded that commitment to an unprecedented level.

American security aid to Israel, excluding expenditure on the Iron Dome battery, this year amounted to $3 billion and will increase by $1.1 billion in the coming year, he said. He noted that Obama had pushed this through despite America’s economic constraints.


Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this report.

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