Despite regular complaints from the American right that President Obama is "throwing Israel under the bus", the truth is that the present US administration has been as close to Israel as any before it. The cosiness has been spoiled by one big wrinkle, though: the perceived personality clash between the president and the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu.
Fear not. Mitt Romney is now the Republican nominee for president: and if he beats Obama in November's election, this wrinkle will be ironed out.
That's because Mitt and Bibi are really, really good friends. The pair first met in 1976, when both were working for the Boston Consulting Group. According to the New York Times, that first encounter blossomed into a strong friendship, one forged "over meals in Boston, New York and Jerusalem, strengthened by a network of mutual friends and heightened by their conservative ideologies."
There's nothing wrong with power-crazed, war-hungry conservative chameleons having dinner together. But when dinner turns to policy, and that policy affects the world, we may have a problem.
Here's the Times piece at length:
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 counselled 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.”
Romney's domestic policy leanings have always been crystal clear: he's a New England Republican who believes in corporate personhood, small government and low taxes for the wealthy (known in the US as "job creators"). But as a one-term governor with next to no executive experience, his foreign policy agenda has been shrouded in mystery. Less so now.
From the same article:
In a telling exchange during a debate in December, Mr Romney criticized Mr Gingrich for making a disparaging remark about Palestinians, declaring: "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 say this? What would you like me to do?'"
Martin S Indyk, a United States ambassador to Israel in the Clinton administration, said that whether intentional or not, Mr Romney's statement implied that he would "subcontract Middle East policy to Israel."
"That, of course, would be inappropriate," he added.
Further reading:The rest of Michael Barbaro's New York Times piece.