It is a taboo for Israeli leaders to give even the slightest hint of favouritism in politics in the U. S., Israel’s closest ally. So some Israelis are squirming over a perception that their Prime Minister is siding with Republican Mitt Romney in the presidential race, in the belief he will take a harder line on archenemy Iran if elected.

With President Barack Obama holding a narrow lead in opinion polls, Benjamin Netanyahu’s perceived strategy looks risky to Israelis who fear their alliance with the U.S. could be in trouble if the incumbent wins. “If our Prime Minister doesn’t get along with their leader, it will hurt our relations,” said Shai Hugi (20), a car rental clerk in Jerusalem. “The US is Israel’s best ally, and it’s always good that you have a strong friend behind you.”

Mr. Netanyahu, convinced that Iran is close to developing nuclear weapons, says Tehran must be stopped. Claiming international diplomatic efforts and economic sanctions have failed, Mr. Netanyahu says the threat of force must be seriously considered. He has urged Mr. Obama to declare “red lines” that would trigger an American attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Mr. Obama has rejected these calls.

“Whether or not it is true that he is actively taking sides, I don’t know,” said Alon Pinkas, Israel’s former consul—general in New York. “But the pattern of behavior clearly suggests this perception is founded in reality.”

Eytan Gilboa, an expert on U.S.-Israeli relations at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, said Mr. Obama, if re-elected, may seek payback from the Israelis by pressuring Mr. Netanyahu to make new concessions to the Palestinians.

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