Washington — Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates believes there is "very little prospect" of peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, as abetween Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas continued to hold after 11 days of violence in Gaza.
"I think there's very little prospect of a peace between them at this point. I don't think there has been in quite a long time," Gates told "Face the Nation" in an interview that aired Sunday. "And I think, in fact, one of the things that produced the breakthrough with the Abraham Accords between the Israelis and the Gulf states and others has been sort of essentially setting aside the Palestinian issue and and moving on to a region that has changed in some pretty dramatic ways, which basically leaves the Palestinians out in the cold."
The Israeli government and Hamas reached a cease-fire, brokered by Egypt, late Thursday, bringing a halt to more than a week of violence that left more than 200 Palestinians and 12 Israelis dead. Following the announcement of the cease-fire, President Biden will "continue its quiet and relentless diplomacy" and believes "we have a genuine opportunity to make progress, and I am committed to working toward it."
Gates, who served with Mr. Biden as defense secretary during the Obama administration, complimented the president's handling of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, saying it was "probably not a bad thing" that the U.S. worked behind the scenes.
"When the United States is out in front, it automatically creates lots of antibodies in a lot of different places," the former defense chief said. "But if the U.S. is playing a constructive role behind the scenes, often it can be much more effective."
The White House did face pressure to speak out against the Israeli strikes in Gaza. Nearly 30 Democratic senators called for an immediate end to the fighting last week, while Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont called for the U.S. to stop supporting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Gates said that among politicians in Washington, the mood is "somewhat less favorable to Israel" now than it has been in the past.
"We saw this in some of the Democratic criticism of Israel for the actions taken in Gaza," he said. "But this is one of the problems of having allies, is that sometimes they do things that you think I really wish they hadn't done that, or you have to worry that they will do something."
Gates also addressed the current state of the Republican Party, which continues to align itself with former President Donald Trump despite his continued false claims the election was stolen and Mr. Biden is not the legitimate president.
The "values and the principles" the GOP stood for under the five Republican presidents Gates worked for "are hard to find these days," he said.
"How do you convey the message to the rest of the world? Yeah, we're a flawed country. We've always had flaws, but we're unique in that we're the only country that actually talks about those flaws and actually works to try and fix them," he said. "We are an aspirational country and we've kind of lost that message, it seems to me."
Gates praised Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who was removed by House Republicans from her post as conference chair, for continuing to speak out against Mr. Trump, calling her courageous. But he suggested there are few Republican elected officials who actually believe the former president's claims about the election.
"Part of this is political gaming rather than a real conviction that the election was stolen," he said.
Gates lamented that the harsh political divisions on Capitol Hill will make it difficult for lawmakers to tackle the other issues facing the nation.
"I think that that problem goes back 20 years or more of demonizing the other party and of not having friends on the other side of the aisle, of not socially gathering after hours and talking about things and having friends," he said. "That's when you leech the hatred and the venom out of the relationship and you can focus on policies. And once you're focused on policies, then you can figure out a way to compromise."