Put away the signs and find something else to do on Sunday: The State Deparatment says Libyan leader Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi won’t pitch his tent next to Englewood’s largest yeshiva during next month’s U.N. visit.
“I am very pleased that Moamer Kadhafi will apparently not be coming to Englewood,” said U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman, who represents the area.
Rothman said President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton convinced the Libyan government it wasn’t worth the grief — not with Mayor Michael Wildes inviting scores of people to what had been a planned protest Sunday outside a Libyan mansion off East Palisade Avenue.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the Libyans “will have suitable accommodations and that they will respect the earnest wishes of the people of the region.”
Kadhafi is coming to September’s opening of the United Nations General Assembly for the first time since a coup swept him to power 40 years ago. The timing wasn’t the best — not after last week’s parole of a terminally-ill Lockerbie bomber whom Qaddafi embraced upon his return.
Within days, teapot tempests stirred over whether the U.S. should accommodate the renounced terror supporter or find a way to keep the former “mad dog of the Middle East” off American soil — especially in a town with a large Orthodox Jewish population.
Then came word yesterday afternoon that Wildes had organized a morning protest outside the three-story, 25-room mansion.
A former supporter of terrorism who has since renounced it, Qaddafi had planned to stay at the Libyan-owned estate, where workers were busy this week erecting an air-conditioned tent to greet visitors.
They also cleared the overgrowth surrounding the neglected mansion — once known as Thunder Rock — and were installing a black metal fence around the compound along with the tent.
City officials have issued a stop-work order because of damage to surrounding properties, but they say that’s been ignored. So Wildes himself went to court today to obtain a temporary injunction halting the work.
As what you could call a celebrity tyrant (and glibness isn’t the intent here), Qaddafi has embodied a paradox: For many, he will remain the man Ronald Reagan once called the mad dog of the Middle East. To the families of those killed in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, the $10 million they accepted from the Libyan government for each victim apparently is nothing more than blood money.
Qaddafi “has made a concerted effort to scam his way back into the good graces of the international community,” said former NYPD Police Commissioner Bernard B. Kerik, a Bergen County resident himself.
However, Kerik said, Qadaffi’s “transparent support for the Pan Am 103 bomber is a clear demonstration that he is the same man he was in the 1970s when he established terrorist training camps on Libyan soil, provided terrorist groups with arms, and offered safe haven to terrorists.”
The flip side: Qaddafi has given up his weapons, accepted responsibility for supporting bombings that killed hundreds and restored diplomatic ties with the United States and the United Nations.
In a world where “fighting” terrorism hasn’t been very successful, the opportunity to open channels of communication at least has the potential to dramatically change the landscape.