‘Unfair criticism’

‘Unfair criticism’

I take exception to Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s criticism of Cong. Steven R. Rothman (op-ed, Jan. 8).

Cong. Rothman’s response to Rabbi Boteach’s article, with regard to the Libyan mission in Englewood, is succinctly stated. Rothman has done everything in his power, from when he was first sworn in as mayor of Englewood in 1983 to the present, regarding the Libyan government’s mansion in Englewood and for keeping Muammar Kaddafi out of Englewood.

Back in August 2009, when Rep. Rothman learned of the Libyan leader’s plan to stay at the Englewood property during the General Assembly, he immediately contacted the state department and representatives of the Libyan government in Washington and was able to persuade the U.S. and Libyan governments to reaffirm the 1983 understanding between the two countries limiting the use of the Libyans’ Englewood property.

As Rep. Rothman noted, this understanding goes back to when he was elected mayor of Englewood and had just learned that the Libyan government had purchased the property as a home for its U.N. ambassador. Rothman convinced then President Reagan’s administration to invoke a little-known law, the “Foreign Missions Act,” which in part stated that a foreign government give prior notice to the U.S. secretary of state of any intention to purchase U.S. real estate. Since no such notice was given, Rothman’s negotiations with the Libyans resulted in an informal understanding that the Englewood property would only be used as the personal resident of the Libyan ambassador and not Kaddafi or anyone of his family. This agreement was upheld and this agreement kept Kaddafi out of Englewood.

Rothman acted wisely and properly, and it is disingenuous for Rabbi Boteach to write, “You represent the concerned citizens of Englewood, not the oil-rich dictatorship of Libya.”

May I remind your readers that Rabbi Boteach purchased his Englewood home in 2000 knowing of the Libyan government’s ownership adjoining his property. Rep. Rothman has not inflicted Kaddafi upon Rabbi Boteach and his family. Where are he or his children at risk? I don’t recall his taking any local or state representatives to task when the property next to him remained an eyesore for years.

Rep. Rothman knows the importance of the situation in Englewood. He quickly showed his concern for his constituents and more importantly his awareness of the legal limitations with regard to embassies in our country.

I say bravo to Rep. Rothman for his clear response to the rabbi’s unfair criticism.