LOS ANGELES, March 28 (JTA) — Ehud Barak, head of Israel’s Labor Party, paid a quick, unannounced visit to Los Angeles last week to attend a private fund-raiser hosted by an Israeli television and movie mogul. Described in a recent article as a billionaire and “the biggest Israeli player in Hollywood,” Haim Saban invited a select list of wealthy Los Angeles-area residents to his Beverly Hills mansion. In his invitation, Saban charged that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “taking the country down a slippery and dangerous slope.” He added, “I have decided to throw my weight and support for two main groups” in Israel’s May 17 elections, mentioning Barak’s Labor Party and the centrist party headed by former Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai. Some 30 guests attended the March 25 event — and although no accurate figure on the amount raised was available, those invited were given to understand that $10,000 would be the minimum donation expected. In addition, Saban pledged to match every dollar contributed. Last fall, Saban hosted a fund-raiser at his home for President Clinton that yielded $1.5 million in donations. Born in Egypt, Saban grew up in a Tel Aviv slum and served as a sergeant major in the Israeli army. In Hollywood, Saban scored a phenomenal success with his children’s television show “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.” In 1996, he merged his Saban Entertainment company with Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Children’s Network. Saban now runs Fox Kids Worldwide, Inc., which, among other properties, owns the International Family Channel. The cable channel, which reaches 69 million homes, was purchased from evangelist Pat Robertson for $1.9 billion.
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