A month or so before the visit, Netanyahu decided to embrace Romney. When Romney showed up for his first meeting with Netanyahu, whose relationship with Obama is chilly, the prime minister greeted him effusively. He addressed Romney by his first name. “We’ve known each other for many decades, since you were a young man, but for some reason, you still look young,” he said. Romney laughed. “You’ve been a personal friend of mine and a strong friend of the state of Israel, and that’s why it’s a pleasure to see you.”
Netanyahu didn’t stop there. He praised Romney’s speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars a week earlier in Reno—a speech notable for its strong attack on Obama’s policies. Without mentioning Obama by name, Netanyahu injected his own criticism. “We have to be honest and say that all the sanctions and diplomacy so far have not set back the Iranian [nuclear program] by one iota,” he said.
That Romney was being treated like a head of state rather than a candidate was confirmed when he arrived for talks with President Shimon Peres. Romney was told he should remain in his SUV as a red carpet was rolled out. Then Peres walked slowly to the SUV to greet Romney. Unlike Netanyahu, Peres is thought to be sympathetic to Obama. Yet in its own way, his welcome of Romney was as upbeat as Netanyahu’s.
What’s more, Romney, his wife, and son were invited to a family dinner at Netanyahu’s home. When Romney arrived, he received another exuberant welcome, more praise, and the hug. (It’s hard to imagine Netanyahu hugging Obama.) The prime minister had summoned the Israeli press to witness the occasion outside his home. Netanyahu extolled the speech. He particularly appreciated Romney’s insistence that Iran must be kept from gaining even the capability to produce a nuclear weapon. That, by itself, would create an imminent threat to Israel.