By Aimee Rhodes
NEW YORK – The Friends of the Israel Defense Forces raised a record $18 million at its annual gala dinner held last week in New York City.
Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz addressed more than 1,300 attendees and remarked on the key security challenges facing Israel. The former defense minister and army chief warned that Iran intended to carry out its threats to destroy Israel.
"Teheran’s intentions are crystal clear. The day Iran’s capabilities allow it to fully act on its intentions is the day those intentions will be carried out. And that day must never come," Mofaz said, adding: "When it comes to Iran let me assure you we will also know how to protect ourselves."
Mofaz also told attendees that UN resolution 1701, the basis for the cease-fire ending the war in Lebanon, was not being fully implemented.
He said Israel is seeing Hizbullah "rearm and return to southern Lebanon" and he added that the Lebanese army was not doing what was necessary to disarm them.
On the Palestinian front, Mofaz said the unity government formed last month was in reality a "Hamas government operating with Hamas ideology." He said that Hamas plans to overtake the Palestinian Authority and he called on the international community not to be fooled as they extend "one hand in peace while the other is deeply involved in terror."
"At this very moment Hamas is strengthening its military forces and preparing for terror attacks and armed conflict against Israel," he said.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert delivered a recorded message to the attendees during which he thanked them for their continuing support.
Both Olmert and Mofaz said that Israel would not compromise on security and they will not rest until the three kidnapped Israeli soldiers are released.
This year the association honored the soldiers who fought in Lebanon and Gaza last summer, delivering the message to the soldiers that "You will never stand alone." During the event the group also presented its 2006 achievements which included raising $46m. for Israeli soldiers.
Leading the contributions this year was Israeli-American media mogul Haim Saban who pledged $3.2m. Guests at the event included Executive Vice President of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Malcolm Hoenlein, AIPAC President Howard Friedman, President and CEO of Israel Bonds Yehoshua Matza, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel, renowned Israeli performer Dudu Fisher, and American businessman Donald Trump who contributed $250,000. Israel’s Consul General in New York Arye Mekel as well as Israel’s defense attache to the US Major General Dan Harel were among representatives of the Israeli government at the affair.
As in the past eight years, the dinner chairman was Benny Shabtai, president of Raymond Weil, and the master of ceremony was author and nationally syndicated radio host Monica Crawly.
(The Jerusalem Post: www.jpost.com; April 3, 2007)