Main Events

Abraham Foxman (left) and
Silvio Berlusconi

Shanah Tovah From
Prime Minister Of Italy

By Nina and Tim Boxer
Photos by Tim Boxer

CKNOWLEDGING the persistent “buzz” about the Anti-Defamation League dinner at The Plaza to honor the controversial Italian Prime Minister, national director Abraham Foxman deflected all criticism by praising Silvio Berlusconi as a staunch friend of the United States and Israel.

“You see anti-Zionism and anti-Israel for what it is—anti-Semitism,” Foxman said. “You visited the Rome synagogue last week. Your government made clear that Hamas equals terrorism. You’ve shown more understanding and support for Israel than any other country in Europe.”

For those reasons Foxman bestowed the ADL’s Distinguished Statesman Award on Berlusconi.

When he first met the leader of Italy, Foxman said he asked why did he break from his European colleagues to support the U.S. in Iraq.

Berlusconi told him that he visits Anzio Beach once a year. He looks at the rows of crosses and Stars of David and recalls how they came across the ocean and laid down their lives so the people of Europe can live in freedom.

Israeli Ambassador to U.S.
Daniel Ayalon (l-r), Israeli Foreign
Minister Sylvan Shalom and Israeli
Ambassador to UN Daniel Gillerman
listen to News Corp. chairman
Rupert Murdoch

Maria Bartiromo of CNBC, serving as emcee, gushed how proud she is to celebrate her Italian heritage. “My father’s family came from Naples; my mother’s family from Sicily. I never miss a chance to visit my favorite place in the world—Italia.”

“I have always been grateful to America,” Berlusconi said at the dinner, “for saving my country from the scourges of Nazism, fascism, Communism and the Soviet empire.

“We are proud to be the most loyal allies of the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

That got hearty applause from the audience which included Berlusconi’s business competitor News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch, Barnes & Noble chairman Leonard Riggio, Miramax Films co-chairman Harvey Weinstein, and CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo.

The Italian prime minister, who has visited Israel twice in the last three years, affirmed his country’s stand with the U.S. to ensure Israel’s “integrity within secure and safe borders.”

He proposed several steps toward peace in the Middle East:

Israel should become a member of the European Union.

The EU should develop an economic development plan for the Middle East.

Sicily would host Israeli/Palestinian peace talks.

He added: “As prime minister of Italy and president of the European Union, I pledge my commitment to fight anti-Semitism. That’s why I support the mission of the ADL. Shanah Tovah.”

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