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Hollywood celebrities attend event to celebrate 60th anniversary of Israel

Seal, Warren Beatty, Annette Bening and other celebrities gathered to toast movie producer Arnon Milchan during a Hollywood event at Paramount Studios that celebrated the 60th anniversary of Israel.

News Corp. President Peter Chernin presented Milchan with a lifetime achievement award from the Citizens' Empowerment Center in Israel, a nonprofit that promotes democracy and civic involvement.

"At first, I said about a hundred times no because I'm shy," Milchan, the Israeli-born businessman who helped produce such films as "Pretty Woman" and "L.A. Confidential," told The Associated Press on the red carpet before the Thursday night ceremony. "Then, I realized for Israel, you can't say no."

During his acceptance speech, Milchan brought tennis star Serena Williams on stage to share the limelight during the soiree. Milchan and Williams met in 1998 when the one-time Israeli fertilizer merchant controlled the television rights to the Women's Tennis Association and brokered Williams' endorsement deal with Puma.

"He was one of the people who always believed in me," Williams said.

While Williams, a solo Seal and former "Seinfeld" star Jason Alexander walked down the red carpet, Beatty and Bening bypassed the media and instead mingled inside.

Other attendees included music producer David Foster and "Iron Man" actor Shan Toub. Howie Mandel appeared during a prerecorded 3D presentation and discussed his recent vacation to Israel.

"Israel is near and dear to my heart," echoed Alexander, who has visited the Middle Eastern country several times and plans to return to Israel with his sons for the first time next June. "I've done a little work in the region to try and make life a littler easier for everybody."