A familiar figure features in a YouTube video currently circulating the Web. It's a 28-year-old economic consultant whose appearance, expression and political opinions match Likud chief Binyamin Netanyahu's in every way. The only difference is the name: Benjamin Nitay.
The 10-minute clip, filmed in 1978 as part of a local Boston TV debate show called The Advocate
, presents the future PM as a "witness" as to whether the United States should support the creation of a Palestinian state.
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Netanyahu applied to have his name changed to "Ben Nitay" in the 1970s while living in America. His historian father, Benzion, occasionally wrote using the alias "Nitay," and Binyamin Netanyahu adopted the name because Americans found it easier to pronounce.
During a heated leadership debate with Shimon Peres in the run-up to the 1996 election, Netanyahu was asked whether his application to change his name meant he had wished to stay in America.
"Not for a single moment," Netanyahu replied. "I come from a Jewish, Zionist family, with roots here for 100 years."
Netanyahu studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, both in the Boston area, and worked at the Boston Consulting Group, an international business consulting firm, during the show's filming.
In the show, he is called as a "first witness" in the mock court case scenario that the TV program employed. He is introduced as "a graduate of MIT, an Israeli and a man who has written widely on the question [of a Palestinian state]."
Asked whether the issue of self-determination is at the heart of the Middle East conflict, Netanyahu replied, "No, I don't believe it is. The real core of the conflict is the unfortunate Arab refusal to accept the State of Israel... For 20 years the Arabs had both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and if self-determination, as they now say, is the core of the conflict, they could have easily established a Palestinian state, but they didn't... What we're talking about here is not the attempt to build the state but to destroy one.
"Nobody wants peace more than Israel," he said.
"But the stumbling block to the road for peace is this demand for a PLO state which will mean more war... more violence in the Middle East, and I sincerely believe that if this demand is abandoned, we can have real and genuine peace."
After being quizzed by members of the studio audience, Netanyahu concluded: "I think the US should oppose the creation of a Palestinian state for several reasons, the first being that it is unjust to demand the creation of a 22nd Arab state and a second Palestinian state at the expense of the only Jewish state... I believe we should fight for our survival. If I have to, I will fight again, but I hope not to."
The responses on YouTube to the video are mixed.
A forum member who identifies himself as "Scarletwool" said, "Wow! The next prime minister of Israel at age 28. And you know he still feels the same way about every topic that was mentioned at this forum. Very good video! Thanks!"
"Authenticinsight" commented, "Back before Netanyahu became a politician, he was an honest man. Hopefully Bibi remains honest in this new government."
A Netanyahu staff member said they were forwarded the clip dozens of times and that Netanyahu himself saw it.
"I felt kind of embarrassed to see how young I looked," Netanyahu said.
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.
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