Nitay Days

Born as Netanyahu, then changing his surname to Nitay and later back to the original: Now, documents related to his Nitay era are revealed.

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One day in September 1976, the phone at David Ginsburg’s D.C.-based law firm rang. On the line was one Benjamin Nitay, calling from Boston. A note taken back then explained why: “His brother, Lieutenant Colonel Nitay, was killed in the Entebbe raid. Funds are being raised in the U.S. to establish a memorial for his brother.”

Nitay was expected in D.C. the next day, two and half months after the hostage rescue mission in Uganda took his brother’s life. Ginsburg, one of the capital’s most prestigious lawyers, asked his colleague to meet Nitay and discuss the issues he called about. He noted that “there may be other questions.”

Back in ‘76, Nitay was an employee of the Boston Consulting Group (BSG). The gossip at the firm about one of its most famous former employees is that he was smart, but somewhat arrogant. That was the place, by the way, where he got to know Mitt Romney. When Nitay arrived to D.C. to meet Ginsburg’s associate,  he had a business card to present, published here for the first time.


Why Nitay?

Some time later, on the track of becoming Israel’s Prime Minister, Nitay will reverse his name once again to Netanyahu.

The variations in Netanyahu’s family name were the base for many speculations and conspiracy theories. “Man without a past”, was the headline the Australian ‘Daily Telegraph’ chose for an article published about him after he was first elected as Israel’s PM, in 1996. At the same year, an article published by the Jerusalem weekly Kol Hair, went as far as implying Netanyahu was a C.I.A. personal. The truth, however, seems to be more banal.

A 1996 Guardian portrait of Netanyahu by Derek Brown describe his years in the U.S. as a teenager. He moved there in 1963 due to his father’s job at a university in Philadelphia. He would return to Israel to serve at an elite IDF unit as an officer and then, in 1972, would return to the U.S. to study at Cambridge’s MIT. He graduated in architecture and received a master’s degree in business administration. “He simplified his name by deed poll to Benjamin Nitay,” explained Brown.

A 2009 article in the Jerusalem Post described a 1996 election debate with Shimon Peres in which 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.”

Why Ginsburg?

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Ginsburg’s history with the state of Israel and its leaders was a long and meaningful one. He was “part of an inner circle of advisors to the Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann and helped smooth the way to the Truman Administration’s recognition of the new State of Israel,” wrote the New York Times in Ginsburg’s obituary, about five years ago.

On that day in September ‘76 when Nitay came to D.C., Ginsburg had other obligations. He was later debriefed on the conversation and the two kept in touch, long into Netanyahu’s career.DG to BB-page-001 They exchanged letters when Netanyahu was the Israeli Ambassador to the U.N., discussing political issues and topics such as the definition of terrorism, and have set up lunch meetings. By that time “Nitay (Israeli),” as initially described by Ginsburg in his notes, turned into “The Honorable Benjamin Netanyahu.”

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Look for the next #Bibistory uncovering the past life of the Prime Minister here on