YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Not taking any chances, several New Jersey officials today told a gathering in Englewood that they don’t want Libyan leader Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi to pitch his tent next to the city’s largest yeshiva during next month’s U.N. visit.
“Mr. Qadaffi is not welcome in New Jersey,” said Gov. Corzine, joined by, among others, U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman, Englewood Mayor Michael Wildes and Councilman Robert Agresta.
Amid plans for today’s demonstration, the State Department announced that the Libyan government has bowed to the wishes of officials in Englewood and across the state, and that Qaddafi would stay somewhere else. But politicians stuck to their plan and underscored their point this morning on East Palisade Avenue, outside the Libyan estate.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, for one, was pleased.
“Englewood is a terrorist free zone because of the grassroots efforts of the community and our bold politicians,” said Boteach, the event’s host, who lives right next door to the Libyan estate.
“This rally proved that when you are on the side of democracy and what is fundamentally right, you can make a difference,” added Bergen County Sheriff Leo McGuire.
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 what scores of people to today’s protest. (See: Qaddafi not coming to Englewood )
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.”
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.
afi 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.
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.
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.
But for many — including several who attended today’s event — 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.
“Terrorists and state sponsors of terror like Qaddafi should not be allowed in this country other than to be prosecuted for them crimes,” said former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard B. Kerik. “The U.S. Department of State should aggressively restrict the movement of Qaddafi and those like him to the U.N. and at the conclusion of the General Assembly, they should be put back on a plane and to where they came from.”
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.