You can’t buy Robert Gates’s new book till January 14, but coverage of the former Defense Secretary’s memoir has included several of his perceptions re the U.S.-Israel relationship.
From the New York Times review by Michiko Kakutani
Regarding the Bush administration, the most compelling parts of this book concern Iran and Mr. Gates’s worries about “the influence of the Israelis and the Saudis” on the White House, particularly the Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and “their shared desire to have problems like Iran ‘taken care of’ while Bush was still president.” Mr. Gates repeatedly warned of the dangers of “looking for another war” when America was already at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. At one point, he says, he was so worried that Mr. Bush might be persuaded by Vice President Dick Cheney and Mr. Olmert “to act or enable the Israelis to act” (that is, to take military action to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon) that he made an intense private call to Mr. Bush in which he argued “we must not make our vital interests in the entire Middle East, the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia hostage to another nation’s decisions — no matter how close an ally.”
Tony Capaccio has more on that influence question, at Bloomberg:
Israel didn’t oppose a $60 billion U.S. arms sale to Saudi Arabia [in 2010], in part because the Pentagon agreed to sell the Israelis at least 20 new Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) F-35 jets, according to the new book by Robert Gates…
A series of meetings with Gates, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu resulted in a working group to ensure that the Saudi sale didn’t erode Israel’s “qualitative military edge” against its Arab neighbors. Maintaining that edge is a long-standing U.S. foreign policy objective.
More from Bloomberg coverage:
In the book, Gates also has some criticism for Israel. “I believe Israel’s strategic situation is worsening, its own actions contributing to its isolation” he wrote….
When Netanyahu “complained about the number of F-15s the Saudis would be buying or upgrading, I pointedly asked him, ‘When did Saudi Arabia ever attack Israel? How long would those planes continue to work without U.S. support?’” Gates wrote.
According to Gates, Netanyahu responded by asking, “What about a counterbalancing investment in our military? How do we compensate on the Israeli side?”
Gates wrote: “Exasperated, I shot back that no U.S. administration had done more, in concrete ways, for Israel’s strategic defense than Obama’s.”
“I used the line that the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” Gates wrote. Netanyahu “replied acidly, ‘In the Middle East, the enemy of my enemy is my frenemy.’”