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October 28, 2011

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PAGE 18A Ghadhafi From page 1A tentatively reaching out to the West through Britain, did not want to be next on the list. "He saw what's next,"he was on the list of terrorist countries,"Gerbi, said. Gadhafi agreed to end his nascent weapons of mass destruction programs and to a payout in the billions of dollars to families of vic- tims of the terrorist attack that brought down a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. Gerbi, who still hopes to re-establish a Jewish pres- ence in Libya, immediately launched a tour of the United States in hopes of rallying support for bringing Libya into the pro-Western fold. He met with pro-Israel groups and lawmakers. "There were extensive discussions about what would be appropriate and not appropriate," recalled Malcolm Hoentein, the ex- ecutive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Jewish community's foreign policy umbrella group. In the end, "we didn't want to stand in the way of Libyan Jews having the opportunity to visit," Especially notable was the fervor with which the late U.S. Rep, Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), a Holocauslsurvi- vor who then was the senior Democrat on the House of Representatives Foreign Af- fairs Committee, embraced the cause. Lantos, with the blessing of a George W. Bush administration seeking to contain radical IsJamist influence, visited Libya five times. "I am rational enough to, recognize that we must accept 'yes' for an answer," Lantos told the Forward newspaper in 2004 following his first visit. 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He said the pro-Israel community decided to not to stand in the way of U.S. rapprochement with Libya because of the relief it would offer Israel. Rosen and Alan Makovsky, 'a staffer for Lantos, were surprised when around 2002--the same time that Gerbi was making the case. for Libya in New York and Washington--Gadhafi's son, Seif al-Islam, sought them out at a conference on the Middle East in England. "He kept finding ways to brirg us into the dialogue," Rosen recalled. ""It became plain we were the reasons for his coming to the con- ference. He considered us influential in Washington because we were pro-.Israel." Rosen tbok the younger Gadhafi's case to the Israe- lis, who gave AIPAC a green light not to oppose Libya's overtures--but they also counseled caution. "Most of them raised an eyebrow, saying you can't trust Gadhafi, but the idea of a rogue state becoming moderate appealed to them," Rosen said. That view seemingly was vindicated when Libya de- stroyed its weapons of mass destruction under U.S: su- pervision. "Israel and its friends are nothing if not pragmatic," Rosen said. "There are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies." AIPAC would no: com- ment on the affair. Keith Weissman, Rosen's deputy at the time, confirmed the account, recalling his own trip to England, at Seif el- Islam Gadhafi's invitation, in 2003. "The Israelis liked it be- cause there was one less guy with a lot of money to spend on bad things,".Weiss- man said. '. "They.were very.nice, we and stuff," he said of the Libyans. "They were mostly inte'rested in that we wouldn't screw up the normalizatioh process." Congress removed Libya from the 1990s Iran-Libya sanctions act, and Western oil companies returned to the country. Most Jewish groups chose not to respond to invitations to. visit Libya noting.that while Gadhafi had removed himself as a threat to others, he was still dangerous to his own people. "Nobody was fooled, ev- erybody Knew what Gadhafi was," said Hoenlein, who like Rosen had turned down invitations to visit Libya. Yet a few of Libya's new Jewish-American interlocu- tors didn't stop at merely not standing in the way of nor- malization; they seemed to embrace the Gadhafi regime. Lantos became a strong advocate for normalization, setting up a U.S.-Libya stu- dent exchange. "I am very proud of Amer- ica's success in convincing Gadhafi to become a decent citizen of the. global com- munity," Lantos said at a hearing of the Foreign Af- :fairs Committee in 2007 when he was chairman. "Our relations with Libya today are in a much better place than they were just five years ago. Our engagement with Gadhafi and the prosperity it has brought Libya serves as a model to countries cur- rently sponsoring terror or compiling weapons of mass destruction. They should know that they, too, can come in from the cold." Jack Rosen, then the chairman of the American Jewish Congress, met in 2007with Gadhafi and coun- seled greater outreach, "He represents a model of a leader who chose to take a risk in talking to the West, and we need to reinforce the path he chose," Rosen told the Forward. Rosen did not return requests for comment for this story. Such hopes were soon dashed by Gadhafi. He grew closer, with the anti-Ameri- can president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, dabbling in the internal affairs of other African countries. In 2009 he delivered a long, bizarre rant at the U.N. General As- sembly. He pursued a weird one-sided courtship with Condoleezza Rice, Bush's secretary of state, which she once said gave her the chills. His promises of restitu- tion to Libya's Jewish ex- iles-driven out two years before Gadhafi took power in 1969--came to naught. Gerbi, a psychologist in- vited to Libya in 2007 to assist in Libyan hospitals, suddenly was thrown out of the country, and the items and money he had brought to refurbish synagogues was confiscated. When the Libyan revo- lution began earlier this year, Gadhafi's seemingly delusional claims of victory drove one-time Western advo- cates-notably Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, and Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister--into embarrassed silence. Much hope now rests on the provisional government Observers From page 2A power in Iran," she said. "They see it less and less necessary to try and do what Khatami was doing in the 1990s, to bring Iran into the fold of Western civilization and community. It's a sign of further polariza- tion inside.Iranbetween the nation and the regime, but also outside of Iran between Iran and the international community." The plot also is a sign of a regime driven increasingly desperate by its mounting isolation, said Heather Hurl- burt of the National Security Network, a liberal Washington foreign policy group. The Obama administration has drawn traditional Iranian partners Russia and China into the sanctions regime, she said, and Iran's nuclear program apparently has been sabotaged at least once. Moreover, the Iranian regime is attempting to respond to a burgeoning regional pro- democracy wave that it fears could spread to Iran. "What you're seeing in HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, OCTOBER 28; 2011 Courtesy David Gerbi In this undated photo David Gerbi poses in front of Sla dar Bishi, the synagogue in Tripoli that he hopes to renovate. Gerbi, an Italian Jew born in Libya, played a central role in 2002 in the rapprochement between Moammar Gadhafi and Libyan Jews. that has replaced Gadhafi. Gerbi advocates caution." At the revolutionaries' invita- tion, since May he has spent weeks on and off in Libya assisting its people overcome post-traumatic stress. Yet at Rosh Hashanah, when Gerbi attempted to re- open a shuttered, neglected synagogue in Tripoli, he was. met with a virulently anti- Semitic Facebook-organized campaign. Protesters out- side the synagogue held up signs proclaiming what Gadhafi had once promised: no Jews in Libya. The incident prompted 16 Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, includ- ing 10 top Jewish members, to write to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urg- ing her to use her influence to preserve Jewish sites in Libya. "They are tangible evi- dence of a once open and tolerant chapter in its past and can serve as a visible symbol of a more hopeful future," said the letter, which was spearheaded by Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.). Gerbi left at the transition- al government's behest but says he will go back, albeit with a more skeptical eye. "After the internation- al community recognized Gadhafi, he stopped being afraid--and he became inflated," Gerbi said. "It's the same pattern" with the rebels, he told JTA. "Gadhafi instilled a lot of hatred. The situation has to evolve." these plot allegations and in the region is an Iran that perceives its interests to be at risk because of the Arab Spring," Hurlburt said. "You see an Iranian government exploring all avenues--they couldn't come up with abetter plot than a crazy guy trying to hire druglords." . The plot underscores the need for a heightened aware- ness by the West of a regime that is ready to take-ex- traordinary measures, said Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the conservative Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. "This regime will continue to target its enemies," Dubow- itz said. "They will not let up until there's a success." Outreach to a drug cartel is typical of a regime that has cultivated rogue ac- tors throughout the Middle East, in Europe and in Latin America, Hakakian said. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards has been smart, she said. "They have been solidi- fying relations with Venezu- elans, with the Cubans, and now they have been moved into Mexican territorY." Working through inter- locutors as unlikely as mur- derous drug dealers makes sense, Dubowitz said, because the regime has always sought plausible deniability in plot- ting such attacks. The immediate response to the plot, said Dubowitz, should be to further isolate the Iranian regime by enforc- ing existing sanctions and enacting new ones, as well as reinforcing backing for Iran's democracy movement. He suggested, among other measures, a strike fund to assist Iranian oil workers and others. Deutch, a member Of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, slid that the Obama adminis- tration should enhance finan- cial sanctions to include Iran's central bank, which would cut off the country from financial markets, and toughen laws on businesses that deal with Iran. "We need to shine a light on those companies that violate sanctions laws," he said.