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Patriots' Kraft gets red carpet

Israel is rolling out the red carpet for New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who arrives next week to collect the Genesis Prize, a prestigious award dubbed by its sponsors as the "Jewish Nobel Prize."

The ceremony on June 20 would mark Kraft's highest-profile public appearance since he was charged in February with soliciting a prostitute at a Florida massage parlour. He has pleaded innocent.

Kraft, a longtime supporter of Jewish and Israeli causes, can expect a warm welcome during a nearly weeklong visit.

In addition to collecting the $1 million award, he is scheduled to have lunch with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and deliver the keynote speech at a lavish ceremony hosted by comic Martin Short. Dozens of VIPs are expected at the invitation-only event, including leaders of Jewish organizations, top business and political figures and the prime minister.

Throughout the visit, he is expected to be accompanied by nearly 60 former and active NFL players. The delegation is scheduled to be welcomed at a reception at U.S. Ambassador David Friedman's seaside residence north of Tel Aviv. Kraft is good friends with both Netanyahu and President Donald Trump.

The Genesis Prize is granted each year to an individual in recognition of their commitment to Jewish values. Organizers say that Kraft has decided to donate his award to fight anti-Semitism, the Palestinian-led boycott movement against Israel, known as BDS, and what they say are attempts to delegitimize Israel.

"Robert Kraft's visit to Israel next week represents a very important milestone in the fight against anti-Semitism, BDS and other efforts to delegitimize the state of Israel," said Stan Polovets, chairman and co-founder of the Genesis Prize Foundation.

Last year's winner, Natalie Portman, snubbed the event because she did not want to appear to be endorsing Netanyahu. The saga was troubling for the foundation, which says it works hard to prevent its philanthropy from being politicized.

Kraft's selection in January seemed like a safe choice, given his years of philanthropic activity and deep ties to Israel. But the following month, Florida authorities announced the misdemeanour solicitation charges as part of a widespread crackdown on sex trafficking.

The 78-year-old billionaire businessman has vigorously battled the charges, and the case against him appears to be crumbling. But he has largely kept a low profile throughout the ordeal.



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