Mitt and 'Bibi': Closer Than You Might Think Romney and Netanyahu have been friends since the '70s By Neal Colgrass, Newser Staff Posted Apr 8, 2012 4:05 PM CDT 17 comments Comments Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Mitt Romney in the Israeli Prime Minister's residence on January 13, 2011 in Jerusalem, Israel. (Getty Images) (Newser) – Mitt Romney has a close ally in the Middle East—so close that the GOP contender defers to him on issues, chats with him in near-shorthand, and once offered him his Rolodex, the New York Times reports. Romney's friendship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dates back to the 1970s, when both were young hotshots at the Boston Consulting Group. The future Massachusetts governor admired Netanyahu's "strong personality with a distinct point of view,” Romney says. “I aspired to the same kind of perspective.” As their friendship grew over the years—and both rose to power—Netanyahu influenced Romney with his anti-government and Middle East policies, leading some to conclude that a Romney presidency would greatly empower Netanyahu. The Israeli PM has stayed neutral about the 2012 election, but Romney openly defers to his old pal on Middle East policy: Chastising Newt Gingrich for his remarks on Palestinians, Romney once said he would "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?’"