Romney win could spur longtime pal Netanyahu to face Iran threat

Mitt Romney and Benjamin Netanyahu go way back, and some in Israel believe the prime minister sees his old friend capturing the White House as the perfect opportunity to vanquish Iran's nuclear threat.

The depth of their relationship, sown back in the 1970s when they both worked as corporate advisers at the Boston Consulting Group, has been on the minds of Israelis lately as the American election season grinds along. In addition to an entry on their resumes, Romney and Netanyahu appear to share a similar perspective of the danger Iran poses to the Jewish State. And given the often-frosty relations between Netanyahu and the Obama administration, decisive action by Israel could come quickly if Romney wins on Nov. 6.


“The current U.S. administration is more concerned about an Israeli military strike than about a nuclear Iran," Kory Bardash, co-Chairman of the Republicans Abroad Israel, told "They haven’t made it clear that an attack on Israel is an attack on the U.S. and the West. Iran is fast developing weapons that could not only hit here, but easily hit Europe as well.”

Bardash noted that U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff (Martin) Dempsey recently said he would not want to be ‘complicit’ in an Israeli attack, a signal received in Israel - and possibly Iran - as indicating the U.S. doesn’t want to be drawn into any action here.

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    "We really cannot rely on an administration that doesn’t even recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” said Bardash.

    The Democratic Party initially did not recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital in its platform for the 2012 elections, but re-inserted language in a controversial amendment last week in Charlotte, N.C.

    Yehuda Ben Meir, Deputy Foreign Minister in the Israeli governments of both Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir in the 1980’s, and now an expert at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, told any action against Iran will likely be postponed until after the election, but won't depend on Romney being elected.

    “I believe Netanyahu will wait until after the U.S. elections, but not for the reason that he is necessarily expecting a Romney win," Meir said. "He does not want to be seen to be influencing U.S. politics and will likely work with whoever is elected. Obama doesn’t want to rock the boat during the election campaign, but should he be re-elected and have four more years that might be a different matter.

    The Iranian nuclear threat should worry others in the region, too, he said.

    “I find it hard to think of anything more dangerous than the Iranian nuclear threat," said Meir. "The danger is not just to Israel, but to the whole region. Privately, I believe many Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, would not be against such action, but publicly they have to show Islamic solidarity.”

    But some in Israel believe President Obama's reliance on sanctions and diplomacy is a wiser course than an attack that could lead to a regional war. Hillel Schenker, Chairman of the Democrats Abroad Israel, blasted Romney’s recent charge that Obama has “thrown Israel under the bus.”

    “Mitt Romney’s comment is an absurd statement,” Schenker said. “President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have stated clearly that Obama has done more than any previous president for Israel, and that the intelligence and military relationship between the countries is closer now than ever before.

    “Obama has pursued a successful policy of building coalitions and done just that by a combination of forceful diplomacy and sanctions," Schenker added. "There is still time to give to sanctions, but as the president has made clear, all options remain available.”

    Fears over Iran and debate about what to do about the threat it poses has reached a fever pitch. The most recent meeting of the security cabinet was abandoned midway after Netanyahu learned that alleged differences of opinion between Israel’s security services over the best course of action had been leaked ahead of the top security gathering. Netanyahu is now reportedly considering submitting all members of the security cabinet to polygraph tests in order to establish the source of the leak.

    Paul Alster is an Israel-based broadcast journalist who blogs at and can be followed on Twitter @paulalster