Netanyahu and Romney, Destined to be Together?

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, really wants Mitt Romney to be president. He'd probably wait a little to say it publicly, partially out of courtesy, and partially to cover his behind in case Obama is re-elected, but it is hardly a secret. Therefore, it was probably a good idea for Mitt Romney to announce that he would visit Israel later this summer.

There are many more and less obvious reasons why both politicians would encourage this relationship. The first, as the New York Times has mentioned, is the simple fact that the two are already good friends. What’s more, they are a mirror image of one another when it comes to fiscal policy. Netanyahu is a lean, mean capitalist machine who — much like Romney — believes in “job creation” and the “trickle down” of wealth via lower taxes to large companies and rich individuals. The Israeli prime minister also believes in the privatization of public services and in limited government regulation; it is clear that the two leaders see eye to eye and will nod in mutual understanding as they complain about those pesky individuals who want to turn their countries into socialist havens.

But, moreover, there is the potential for political gain for both sides. For Netanyahu, nothing would be more welcomed than replacing Obama. The tension between the Israeli prime minister and the American president has been hard to hide: they have clashed over issues like the alleged Iranian nuclear weapons program and Palestine. Obama is perceived in Israel as a pro-Palestinian president who does not have Israel’s best interest at heart. He is seen as having forsaken Israel when the tension with Iran became pressing in March this year. And he is believed to have “thrown Israel under the bus”, to quote Romney himself, by declaring his support for reinstatement of the 1967 borders.

For Romney, a good response in Israel — an almost guaranteed matter — can be used as leverage for both the Jewish and Evangelical Christian votes. Still battling disdain for his Mormon faith from hardcore religious-right groups, Romney can benefit from getting on the good side of the Christian friends of the Holy Land. He can also try to harness the disappointment with Obama’s treatment of Israel, and hope to pluck some Jewish support (even if limited — the Jewish vote has been a Democrat stronghold for decades).

It is no surprise, then, that Romney has declared multiple times, at least in so many words, that he will support Israel no matter what (he told an Israeli newspaper in 2011 that the “actions that I will take will be actions recommended and supported by Israeli leaders … I don’t think America should play the role of leader in the peace process …”). It is difficult to predict how much this visit would actually help Romney in his presidential endeavor — or how good it would do for Israel in the long run to have a “Yes Man” as a counterpart, for that matter. But, it is reasonable to assume that both the Netanyahu and the aspiring American president would find relief in conversing with a sympathetic, like-minded partner.