The relationship between Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Romney — nurtured over meals in Boston, New York and Jerusalem, strengthened by a network of mutual friends and heightened by their conservative ideologies — has resulted in an unusually frank exchange of advice and insights on topics like politics, economics and the Middle East.
When Mr. Romney was the governor of Massachusetts, Mr. Netanyahu offered him firsthand pointers on how to shrink the size of government. When Mr. Netanyahu wanted to encourage pension funds to divest from businesses tied to Iran, Mr. Romney counseled him on which American officials to meet with. And when Mr. Romney first ran for president, Mr. Netanyahu presciently asked him whether he thought Newt Gingrich would ever jump into the race.
Only a few weeks ago, on Super Tuesday, Mr. Netanyahu delivered a personal briefing by telephone to Mr. Romney about the situation in Iran.
"We can almost speak in shorthand," Mr. Romney said in an interview. "We share common experiences and have a perspective and underpinning which is similar."
Mr. Netanyahu attributed their "easy communication" to what he called "B.C.G.'s intellectually rigorous boot camp."
"So despite our very different backgrounds," he said through an aide, "my sense is that we employ similar methods in analyzing problems and coming up with solutions for them."
The men reconnected shortly after 2003 when Mr. Romney became the governor of Massachusetts. Mr. Netanyahu paid him a visit, eager to swap tales of government life.
Mr. Netanyahu, who had recently stepped down as Israel's finance minister, regaled Mr. Romney with stories of how, in the tradition of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, he had challenged unionized workers over control of their pensions, reduced taxes and privatized formerly government-run industries, reducing the role of government in private enterprise.
He encouraged Mr. Romney to look for ways to do the same. As Mr. Romney recalled, Mr. Netanyahu told him of a favorite memory from basic training about a soldier trying to race his comrades with a fat man atop his shoulders. Naturally, he loses.
"Government," Mr. Romney recalled him saying, "is the guy on your shoulders."
As governor, Mr. Romney said, he frequently repeated the story to the heads of various agencies, reminding them that their job as regulators was to "catch the bad guys, but also to encourage the good guys and to make business more successful in our state."
A few years later, Mr. Romney had dinner with Mr. Netanyahu at a private home in the Jewish quarter of the Old City, in central Jerusalem, where the two spent hours discussing the American and Israeli economies. When Mr. Netanyahu informed Mr. Romney of a personal campaign to persuade American pension funds to divest from businesses tied to Iran, Mr. Romney offered up his Rolodex.
Before he left Israel, Mr. Romney set up several meetings with government officials in the United States for his old colleague. "I immediately saw the wisdom of his thinking," Mr. Romney said.
Back in Massachusetts, Mr. Romney sent out letters to legislators requesting that the public pension funds they controlled sell off investments from corporations doing business with Iran.
Even as Mr. Netanyahu, a keen and eager student of American politics, has tried to avoid any hint of favoritism in the presidential election, friends say he has paid especially close attention to Mr. Romney's political fortunes in this campaign season.
And the prime minister keeps open lines of communication to the candidate. When it was Mr. Gingrich's turn to leap to the top of the polls, Mr. Netanyahu was startled in January by an article exploring why Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire casino executive and outspoken supporter of Israel, was devoting millions of dollars to back Mr. Gingrich. It described Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Adelson as close friends.
Mr. Netanyahu's office quickly relayed a message to a senior Romney adviser, Dan Senor: the prime minister had played no role in Mr. Adelson's decision to bankroll a Romney rival.
Monday, April 9, 2012
Are Mitt and Bibi Friends?
The New York Times has an interesting story about Mitt and Bibi's relationship. I really wasn't aware they knew each other for so long. Maybe Mitt will actually overdeliver on Israel? I've definitely been worried about Mitt being overly moderate on Israel just like he is on everything else, but maybe I could be wrong about this. If Mitt is good enough for Bibi...: