Hillary on Russia, Iran

Senator Clinton, Tamir Sapir and his wife, Liena.

“You’re having your dinner in this beautiful room in the United Nations,” said Senator Hillary Clinton, at Sunday night’s gala for the UJA-Federation of New York’s Russian Division. “We’ve got to do a better job of persuading the international community that no nation is immune from terrorism and violence.”

“Nobody can sit on the sidelines,” she continued. “I do not understand Russia’s attitude toward Iran–it’s continuing effort to help them acquire nuclear capacity and other forms of weapons. If the current Russian government thinks they can control Iran– and Iran will not turn on Russia–I think they have a very short-sided view of history.”

With such fiery political rhetoric, one might assume the lavish dinner was on the floor of the General Assembly. However, it was actually upstairs in the Delegates Ballroom, which overlooks the East River.

This year, the Russian Division gave its “humanitarian of the year award” to Georgian-born developer and philanthropist Tamir Sapir. (Lawyer Alexander Goldin was also honored, receiving the young leadership award).

Indeed, Mr. Sapir has a unique resume: New York City cab driver, Fifth Avenue electronics provider to visiting Russian dignitaries, and finally, a billionaire real estate mogul. Mr. Sapir’s vast holdings include 11 Madison (an Art Deco standout), 2 Broadway (headquarters of the M.T.A.), and the Duke Semans mansion (which he recently bought for a townhouse record of $40 million).

Throughout the evening, there was traditional singing, dancing, and waiters filling glasses half-full of Imperia vodka. And being a powerful philanthropic organization–comprised mostly of Russian-speaking Jewish members–it’s not surprising that several prominent politicians showed up to celebrate the honorees, talk foreign policy, and even make a joke or two.

“I want to say a special word of thanks and congratulations to the Sapir family, and Tamir Sapir,” said Congressman Anthony Weiner. “He is someone who has invested his time and energy in making sure the Jewish community here and everywhere thrives.”

“I’m sure you read the real estate section this morning, where you learned that Tamir Sapir purchased this building,” joked Mr. Weiner. “It’s still going to be the UN. Although I can tell you that it would be under better hands, perhaps, than under its present guidance. I can tell you that right now.”

Before Senator Clinton assumed the podium, board chair Susan K. Stern discussed how they both traveled recently to Israel. Certainly, that trip weighed heavily in the Senator’s speech.

“So we now have a new government in Israel–a government that is facing even greater dangers than what we discussed when I was there in November,” said Senator Clinton. “Since then, we’ve seen the election of Hamas, and we have all shuddered at the prospects of having a terrorist organization in charge of the land that abuts Israel.”

“I have said repeatedly that we–the United States–and no one in the world, should recognize Hamas,” she continued. “Until, and unless, it renounces violence and terrorism, and recognizes Israel’s right to exist.”

“We must have a united front against those organizations like Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah,” she said, “and those nations like Iran, Sudan and others that promote and export terrorism beyond their borders.”

Michael Calderone Hillary on Russia, Iran