Close Bibi-Romney ties revealed

By Nathalie Rothschild, April 19, 2012
Netanyahu and Romney

Netanyahu and Romney

The man now certain to be the Republican nominee for the US presidential elections, Mitt Romney, has close personal links to Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu.

Among the details that have emerged recently about their relationship in the American press, is the fact that, in 1976, fresh out of graduate school, they were both working as corporate advisers at the Boston Consulting Group.

According to a much-discussed New York Times report, over the past 36 years the politicians' friendship has been "nurtured over meals in Boston, New York and Jerusalem, strengthened by a network of mutual friends and heightened by their conservative ideologies".

"We can almost speak in shorthand," Mr Romney told the New York Times. "We share common experiences and have a perspective and underpinning which is similar."

Mr Romney has on several occasions highlighted his close ties to Mr Netanyahu and has echoed the Israeli leader's attitude towards Iran.

In December, Mr Romney, taking a dig at rival candidate Newt Gingrich, who had controversially stated that the Palestinians are an "invented people", said: "Before I made a statement of that nature, I'd get on the phone to my friend Bibi Netanyahu and say, 'Would it help if I said this? What would you like me to do?'"

Mr Romney has championed several of Mr Netanyahu's causes, including his efforts to persuade pension funds to divest from firms with ties to Iran.

In a foreign policy debate, broadcast on CNN in November last year, Mr Romney said Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should be indicted on war crimes charges, echoing Mr Netanyahu's stance.

Mr Romney also took a hard-line approach to Iran during the 2007 Herzliya conference, where Mr Netanyahu spoke. And just weeks ago, on Super Tuesday, Mr Netanyahu personally briefed Mr Romney about Iran.

In an October 2011 interview for Netanyahu-friendly Israeli paper Israel Hayom, Mr Romney said he would support Israeli leaders in moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. "I don't seek to take actions independent of what our allies think is best," he said, "and if Israel's leaders thought that a move of that nature would be helpful to their efforts, then that's something I'll be inclined to do".

Such statements have led to accusations that Mr Romney is willing to "outsource" American foreign policy decisions, a critique that is being repeated now following the New York Times report. But Israeli ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, protested. In a letter of complaint to the newspapers, he stated: "Israel does not interfere in internal political affairs of the US - contrary to the article's insinuation - and greatly values the wide, bipartisan support it enjoys in America."

Last updated: 4:46pm, April 19 2012