Add former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to the list of world leaders who consider Bibi Netanyahu insufferable.
The list includes at least two American presidents, a British prime minister, a German chancellor and a French president.
Those countries are Israel’s closest allies, and the problem can’t be shrugged off by dismissing those leaders as anti-Israel or insensitive to Israel’s concerns, as Netanyahu’s defenders do so reflexively. Instead, they should be asking why their guy has so much trouble getting along with so many foreign leaders.
In his new book, “Duty” Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” Gates expresses a warm emotional attachment to Israel and close relations with some leaders, notably former PM and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, but he had an “apparent loathing” for Netanyahu that dates back to Gates’ time as deputy national security advisor to President George H.W. Bush (and apparently has only grown since then), according to Jeffrey Goldberg’s review of the memoir for Bloomberg news:
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.”
Netanyahu, according to Gates, was “ungrateful” for the support Israel has gotten from the Obama administration. An “exasperated” Gates told a complaining Netanyahu “no U.S. administration had done more, in concrete ways, for Israel’s strategic defense than Obama’s.” Netanyahu has failed to adequately comprehend security and demographic reality, in Gates’ view, Goldberg reported.
“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.”
Bibi’s infamous condescending televised Oval Office lecture of the President of the United States on Jewish history and Arab treachery did lasting damage throughout the administration and beyond, and it solidified his reputation as an ungrateful and arrogant ally.
“Yet the Netanyahu government does little to dispel the notion among its right-wing supporters that the Obama administration is at best a wavering friend. This is self- evidently foolish, especially at a time when Israel faces an existential threat from its menacing neighbor Iran,” Goldberg writes.
Netanyahu’s hand is seen by many in Washington today as the driving force behind AIPAC’s push to enact new sanctions despite administration calls to delay new legislation in order to give the nuclear talks a chance to succeed. It is forcing a confrontation that Israel can only lose.