Tel Aviv - The American policy re garding nuclear armaments in the Middle East? "Hey, you there, Iraq and Iran and Libya, stop it! Not you , Israel!" The danger of nuclear arms was the main pretext for the invasion of Iraq. Iran is threatened in order to compel it to stop its nuclear efforts. Libya has surrendered and is dismantling its nuclear installations.
So what about Israel? This week it became clear that the Americans are full partners in the creation of Israel's "nuclear option." How was this exposed? With the help of nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu, who was released Wednesday, April 21.
The security establishment has not stopped harassing him even after he was "set free." It has imposed far-reaching restrictions on him.
The security people declared from every podium that this is not revenge for all the shame Vanunu caused the security services, but an essential security requirement. He must not be allowed to leave the country or speak with foreigners and journalists because he is in possession of secrets vital to the security of the state. But what can a technician know after 18 years in jail, when technology has advanced in giant steps?
Gradually, it becomes clear what the security establishment is really afraid of. Vanunu is in a position to expose Israel's close partnership with the U.S. in the development of its nuclear armaments. This worries Washington so much that the State Department official responsible for "arms control," Under-secretary John Bolton, has come to Israel in person for the occasion. Vanunu, it appears, can cause severe damage to the mighty superpower.
In the short address Vanunu was able to make to the media immediately after his release, he made a strange remark - that the young woman who served as bait in his kidnapping some 18 years ago was not a Mossad agent, as generally assumed, but an agent of the FBI or CIA. Why was it so urgent for him to convey this?
From the first moment, there was something odd about the Vanunu affair. My first thought was that he was a Mossad agent. Everything pointed in that direction. How else can one explain a simple technician's success in smuggling a camera into the most secret and best-guarded installation in Israel? And in taking photos apparently without hindrance? How was he allowed to leave the country with hundreds of photos? How was he able to approach a British paper and turn over to British scientists material that convinced them that Israel had 200 nuclear bombs?
Absurd, isn't it? But it all fits if one assumes that Vanunu acted from the beginning for the Mossad. His disclosures in the British newspaper not only caused no damage to the Israeli government but, on the contrary, strengthened the Israeli deterrent.
What happened next only reinforced this assumption. While in London, in the middle of his campaign of exposures, knowing that half a dozen intelligence services were tracking his every movement, he started an affair with a strange woman and was seduced into following her to Rome, where he was kidnapped and shipped back to Israel. Is it credible that a reasonable person would fall into such a primitive trap?
But when details of the years-long daily mistreatment of the man became public, I had to give up this initial theory. I had to face the fact that our security services are even stupider than I had assumed, and that Mordecai Vanunu was an honest and idealistic, if extremely naive, person.
I have no doubt that his personality was shaped by his background. He is one of many children of a well-to-do Moroccan family who had to live in a primitive "transition camp" in Israel before moving to Be'er-Sheva, where they lived in poverty. In spite of this, he succeeded in getting into university and got a master's degree, quite an achievement, but he suffered, so it seems, from the overbearing prejudices of his Ashkenazi peers. Undoubtedly, that pushed him toward the company of the extreme left, where such prejudices were not prevalent.
The bunch of "security correspondents" and other commentators who are attached to the security establishment have already spread stories about Vanunu's "imagining things," his long stay in solitary confinement causing him to "convince himself of all kinds of fantasies." Meaning the American connection.
Against this background one can suddenly understand all the severe restrictions. The world must be prevented by all available means from hearing from the lips of a credible witness that the U.S. is a full partner in Israel's nuclear arms program while pretending to be the world's sheriff for the prevention of nuclear proliferation.