Robert Gates, the former U.S. defense secretary, said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “ungrateful” for Obama administration assistance and gave nothing in return.
Gates made his remarks after a tense meeting in May between Netanyahu and President Obama, Jeffrey Goldberg, an Atlantic writer, wrote in a column Tuesday for Bloomberg News.
Obama had just outlined precepts for a Palestinian-Israeli peace that included many positions guaranteeing Israel’s security, but also called for negotiations to be based on 1967 lines.
Netanyahu, who was caught off guard by the new policies, was furious and lectured Obama on Middle East history at an Oval Office press availability.
That public dress-down in turn infuriated administration officials, and Gates, a Republican who is a carryover from President George W. Bush’s administration, excoriated Netanyahu at a meeting of the National Security Council Principals—the council of top U.S. officials handling defense and security.
Gates noted increased assistance under Obama to Israel including intelligence sharing and missile defense cooperation, and said that Netanyahu had been especially unhelpful regarding the peace process with the Palestinians. He said Netanyahu’s policies endangered Israel.
Goldberg reported that no one in the room objected to the characterization, and said that officials were leaking the remarks now because the United States is once again taking Israel’s side at the United Nations and attempting to head off a Palestinian bid to get the body to recognize Palestine as a state.
Officials of Netanyahu’s Likud Party defended the prime minister to Ha’aretz on Tuesday, saying that most Israelis favored his positions. Gates retired this summer and was succeeded by Leon Panetta.