SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Mitt Romney will not be meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to the Middle East this week.
The Times of Israel reported Wednesday that Netanyahu’s office said that the prime minister is vacationing in the north during Passover, which ends at nightfall on Saturday.
Romney, however, did talk to the prime minister on the phone, according to the senator's office.
Netanyahu and Romney have been friends dating back to 1976 when they worked at the same corporate consulting firm in Boston. Netanyahu, who had an icy relationship with former President Barack Obama, openly backed Romney for president in 2012. Romney traveled to Israel to meet with the prime minister during the campaign.
Also during the 2012 campaign, Romney said his first foreign trip as president would be to Israel.
"I will reaffirm as a vital national interest Israel's existence as a Jewish state. I want the world to know that the bonds between Israel and the United States are unshakable," he said in 2011.
Interestingly, Romney's first official overseas trip since being elected to the Senate is to Israel. He and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., are in the Middle East this week to strengthen relationships with U.S. allies in the region, according to Romney's office.
Romney, R-Utah, posted Wednesday on Facebook that he and Murphy met with U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and officials at the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem to discuss security concerns in the region.
"Israel is our most important ally and friend in the Middle East. We stand with them in promoting regional stability and countering the threat posed by Iran," Romney wrote.
The senator also tweeted that he met with students at BYU's Jerusalem Center and that he and his wife, Ann, visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Romney and Murphy, both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, are also traveling to Jordan. The two were also scheduled to visit the West Bank for talks with Palestinian Authority officials, according to the Times of Israel.
The Jerusalem Post noted that Netanyahu called President Donald Trump the best supporter of Israel to have ever sat in the White House, while describing Romney as a "sharp critic" of Trump and that the two men have a "toxic" relationship.
The story cited Romney saying he was "sickened" by Trump's conduct described in special counsel Robert Mueller's redacted report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Romney supported Trump moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem last year.