Bibi’s Romney Rally

Mitt Romney’s trip to Israel, like his whole brief overseas tour, was initially viewed as just a box-checking exercise typical of any presidential nominee with no foreign policy experience. Yes, it’s especially important for a Republican candidate to show his party’s conservative evangelical voting base he’s got some Holy Land street cred, and it’s also worth remembering that Israel is about the only ally conservatives are particularly high on these days (all those other “allies” tend to be “socialist” by U.S. conservative standards).

But as it turns out, Romney’s visit was less noteworthy for his pandering to Israelis and their U.S. supporters than for his love fest with Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, as Haaretz’s Barak Ravid explains:

The speech itself sounded as if it could have been written by Netanyahu’s bureau. So it’s no surprise that when the two met later for dinner, Netanyahu thanked him for his “support for Israel and Jerusalem.”

In general, Netanyahu embraced Romney as no Israeli prime minister has ever before embraced a candidate running against an incumbent U.S. president: Aside from their working meeting in the morning, Netanyahu also hosted Romney and his wife and sons for dinner at his official residence.

Romney’s entire visit to Israel was born in the Prime Minister’s Office. According to Tablet Magazine, those who cooked up the visit over breakfasts at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem a month ago were Romney’s adviser Dan Senor and Netanyahu’s adviser, Ron Dermer, who himself hails from a Republican family in Miami.

The two clandestinely planned the visit in order to preempt Barak Obama visiting Israel before the Republican candidate.

Mitt ‘n’ Bibi, of course, go way back to their days together at the Boston Consulting Group:

“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 the regularly embattled Netanyahu not only gave Romney over-the-top encouragement, but secured reciprocally respect from his American buddy, notes Ravak:
Romney’s staff picked the 150 guests carefully. Religious American immigrants dominated the crowd; secular Jews and native-born Israelis were few and far between. Those present included Jewish-American millionaires, settler leaders like the former chairman of the Yesha Council of settlements Israel Harel, and former Netanyahu aides such as Dore Gold, Naftali Bennett, Ayelet Shaked and Yoaz Hendel.

But the chief symbol of the Mitt/Bibi alliance was the prominent presence of a certain common benefactor:

The best places at the center of the first row were given, as expected, to Sheldon and Miriam Adelson. The casino magnate and owners of the Yisrael Hayom newspaper is considered one of the strongest supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The $100 million that Adelson pledged to donate to Romney in order to get Obama out of the White House is the oil in the wheels of Romney’s election campaign.

I don’t think it’s terribly unfair to suggest that in the event of a Romney victory and a continued Netanyahu government in Israel, the future of the Middle East is likely to be shaped according to the wishes of Sheldon Adelson. If you find that frightening, you are not alone.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.