Thursday, July 26, 2012
Romney Overseas tour-chance to Showcase Netanyahu-Friendship
Foxnews Mitt Romney set out Wednesday on an international journey that will allow the business-minded candidate to burnish his foreign policy creds and showcase something he has that President Obama doesn't -- a longstanding personal relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
While an incumbent president almost always has the advantage when it comes to foreign policy, the Republican challenger could use his six-day tour to highlight Obama's alleged trust deficit with Israel. And what better way for Romney to do that than by spending quality time with his former colleague, who also happens to lead Israel?
The connection between Romney and Netanyahu goes back decades. It started in the mid-1970s when they were corporate consultants at the Boston Consulting Group and has lasted nearly 40 years -- with Netanyahu, the world-wise politician, occasionally offering advice to Romney, the successful financier turned politician.
Yet the friendship until recently had gone largely unnoticed, or at least until Romney emerged as the likely 2012 GOP presidential nominee and during a primary debate brought attention to it. Responding to a controversial statement Newt Gingrich had made about Palestinians, Romney said: "Before I made a statement of that nature, I'd get on the phone to my friend Bibi Netanyahu" and ask for his advice.
Though Republican and Democratic strategists differ over what impact Romney's trip will have on the November election, both sides agree Israel is an essential U.S. ally in the unstable Middle East and that Romney will surely make the most of his relationship with Netanyahu.
"Israel is paramount to peace in the Middle East, more so than places like France, Great Britain and China," said Tyler Harber, a Republican strategist and partner in the Washington-area firm Harcom Strategies. He said Romney aides realize the strategic importance of the Israel stop -- between scheduled visits to England and Poland -- because they know American voters pay close attention to Israel and forging strong ties in that country could help Romney improve his stature among Jewish voters back home who typically vote Democrat.
"They understand what's important is this environment," Harber said. "And the visuals of going to Israel are good."
Romney's visit also highlights the trouble the Obama administration has had with Israel, and the fact that the president hasn't visited Israel since taking office -- though he did visit during the 2008 campaign.