05/17/2012 11:14 am ET

Benjamin Netanyahu Downplays Relationship With Mitt Romney

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is describing his relationship with Mitt Romney in terms that are not quite as close as those used by the former Massachusetts governor.

The two both worked at Boston Consulting Group in the mid-1970s. Romney had graduated from Harvard Business School, while Netanyahu's degree came from the MIT Sloan School of Management across the Charles River.

"We did not know each other that well. He was the whiz kid. I was just in the back of the room," Netanyahu told Time magazine's Richard Stengel in an interview published Thursday.

According to Politico's Playbook, which ran excerpts, "Netanyahu tells Stengel he has seen Romney only a handful of times over the years and only once this year. They spoke for 10 minutes in March during his visit to Washington, mainly about Iran."

Romney described the relationship more warmly to The New York Times in April, saying the two "can almost speak in shorthand." He added, "We share common experiences and have a perspective and underpinning which is similar."

The Republican frontrunner has pointed to the relationship with his "old friend" Netanyahu in his effort to paint President Barack Obama as insufficiently pro-Israel. But Netanyahu's comments suggest their closeness may be exaggerated.

Jewish voters still overwhelmingly back Obama, and the tension between Israel and Iran ranks low on their list of priorities, according to a recent Public Religion Research Institute survey.