Tillerson: Netanyahu 'played' Trump with misinformation

Former Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonTrump flails as audience dwindles and ratings plummet How the US could respond to Russia's support of the Taliban Trump insulted UK's May, called Germany's Merkel 'stupid' in calls: report MORE said during a Tuesday interview with a panel of Harvard professors that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE “played” President TrumpDonald John TrumpDavis: Supreme Court decision is bad news for Trump, good news for Vance Meadows trying to root out suspected White House leakers by feeding them info: Axios Pressley hits DeVos over reopening schools: 'I wouldn't trust you to care for a house plant let alone my child' MORE numerous times, according to The Harvard Gazette.

Tillerson said Netanyahu was “a bit Machiavellian” and cultivated relationships with world leaders he anticipated would be useful later.

Tillerson added that Israeli officials would use misinformation if they believed it was necessary to win U.S. officials over to their side of an issue.

ADVERTISEMENT

“They did that with the president on a couple of occasions, to persuade him that ‘We’re the good guys, they’re the bad guys.’ We later exposed it to the president so he understood, ‘You’ve been played,’ ” Tillerson said. “It bothers me that an ally that’s that close and important to us would do that to us.”

In a tweet Thursday, the official Twitter account of the prime minister tweeted "Israel *is* the good guy" in response to Tillerson's quote.

Tillerson said that when he first entered office he was optimistic about the potential for peace in the region.

“I did believe that we were at a moment in time where perhaps we could chart a way where the Arab world could support an outcome that the Palestinians might not think was perfect — and in the past, if it wasn’t perfect, it didn’t happen — but with enough encouragement, pressure from the Arab world, that we could get it close enough that the Palestinians would finally agree,” he told the panel.

But Tillerson said his lack of a relationship with Trump kept the State Department from making progress on this front during his time in office. Tillerson also conceded being “a little too aggressive” in a push to overhaul the department.

“The level of change was so dramatic for a lot of people in what was already a very significant change from the Obama administration to the Trump administration, which was also dramatic and traumatic,” he said. “I didn’t have a full appreciation probably for just how emotional it would become for some people.”

Tillerson left office in March 2018 and has made mild criticisms of Trump since then, prompting the president to call him “dumb as a rock” and “lazy as hell” in December 2018.