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Tipsheet

Netanyahu and Romney Close Friends Since 1976

The New York Times has a profile piece online today about the longtime friendship between former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It turns out, the two go way back to their business days and have been exchanging advice for decades.

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The two young men had woefully little in common: one was a wealthy Mormon from Michigan, the other a middle-class Jew from Israel.

But in 1976, the lives of Mitt Romney and Benjamin Netanyahu intersected, briefly but indelibly, in the 16th-floor offices of the Boston Consulting Group, where both had been recruited as corporate advisers. At the most formative time of their careers, they sized each other up during the firm’s weekly brainstorming sessions, absorbing the same profoundly analytical view of the world.

That shared experience decades ago led to a warm friendship, little known to outsiders, that is now rich with political intrigue. Mr. Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, is making the case for military action against Iran as Mr. Romney, the likely Republican presidential nominee, is attacking the Obama administration for not supporting Mr. Netanyahu more robustly.

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.

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To say the least, the relationship between President Barack Obama and Netanyahu has been tense since Obama took office in January 2009. Who can forget President Obama calling for Israel to go back to its 1967 borders just a year ago? Moreover, who can forget Prime Minister Netanyahu rebuking those calls in front of a joint session of Congress just days later?

As Iran continues its march toward a nuclear state with little support from the Obama administration, and as Syria continues to burn, it's fair to say Netanyahu is probably looking forward to November just like the rest of us. Romney's friendship with Netanyahu will serve him well politically and may even give him a good portion of Jewish voters unhappy with the current administration.

A Pew Research Center analysis indicated that "Jews" who support or lean Republican shot up 9 points from 2008 to 29 percent in 2011, while those supporting or leaning Democratic fell from 72 percent to 65 percent. While this trend mirrored a corresponding rise in popularity of Republicans among every other religious group, the Jewish increase was most significant.

The American Jewish Committee reported similar findings last September, the percentage of Jewish voters who identified with the Democratic Party fell from 53 in 2009 to 45 percent in 2011.

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