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December 13, 2011

Yes sir, that's my Bibi

As usual, I did not watch last Saturday's Republican debate, preferring to learn about it from Richard Adams' always entertaining live blog for The Guardian. One exchange that caught my eye was when Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich fell over themselves trying to show who was more devoted to Israel, repeatedly referring to the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu as their friend 'Bibi'.

Romney: Of course you [Gingrich] stand firm and stand for the truth, but you don't speak for Israel.
Gingrich: I didn't.
Romney: If Bibi Netanyahu wants to say what you said, let him say it. But our ally, the people of Israel should be able to take their own positions and not have us negotiate for them.
Gingrich: Can I just say one last thing? Because I didn't speak for the people of Israel. I spoke as a historian who has looked at the world stage for a very long time. I've known Bibi [Netanyahu] since 1984. I feel quite confident an amazing number of Israelis found it nice to have an American tell the truth about the war they are in the middle of and the casualties they're taking and the people who surround them who say, you do not have the right to exist and we want to destroy you.
Romney: I've also known Bibi Netanyahu for a long time. We worked together at Boston Consulting Group. And the last thing Bibi Netanyahu needs to have is not just a person who's a historian, but someone who is also running for president of the United States stand up and say things that create extraordinary tumult in his neighborhood. And if I'm president of the United States, I will exercise sobriety, care, stability and make sure that I don't say anything like this.

Anything I say that can affect a place with rockets going in, with people dying. I don't do anything that would harm that process. And, therefore, before I made a statement of that nature, I'd get on the phone to my friend, Bibi Netanyahu and say, would it help if I say this? What would you like me to do? Let's work together because we're partners.

I find it extraordinary that people running for the leadership of one country would so proudly proclaim their undying loyalty to another country, to the extent that they would not say anything without first getting it approved by the head of that country, even though that head is despised by world leaders as a liar.

I would like moderators at these debates to ask the candidates if there is any issue on which the interests of the US and Israel diverge. Except for Ron Paul, I expect them all to answer 'no', even though such an answer is patently absurd.

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