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Paying a price for blowing the whistle on Israel’s nuclear weapons, 30 years on
Richard Norton-Taylor
The Guardian

Mordechai Vanunu faces legal costs and extraordinary restrictions
US report shows when Washington knew about nuclear programme
Israel sends ‘observers’ to non-proliferation treaty conference

Mordechai Vanunu is still prevented from leaving his country and subjected to extraordinary restrictions for blowing the whistle on Israel’s nuclear weapons in 1986.

He appears to be making a successful appeal for one of his less burdensome trials - payment of 40,000 shekels (nearly £7,000) for losing a libel case against the Yediot Aharanot newspaper. His supporters say they seem to be on the way to raising the funds.

Vanunu, who was jailed for 18 years, including 11 years in solitary confinement, for revealing the secrets of Dimona’s nuclear plant, has had to face a series of obstacles since he was released.

11 years after his release, his movements are monitored and he is forbidden to leave Israel. Earlier this year, these restrictions reached what the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, called their grotesque peak.

Responding to a petition submitted by his lawyers Avigdor Feldman and Michael Sfard, Home Front Command chief Maj. Gen. Eyal Eizenberg signed an order allowing Vanunu “a chance conversation orally with foreigners, as long as it is a one-time conversation, which takes place face to face, is not planned in advance, is held in a public place open to the general public, and takes place for a period no longer than 30 minutes.”

These are interesting times in the long history of the Vanunu case. In February, the US defence department declassified previously secret files, breaking Washington’s official silence on Israel’s nuclear weapons programme.

The 386 page report, entitled, “critical technology assessment in Israel and Nato nations,” was drawn up in 1967.

It describes Israel’s nuclear programme as an “amost exact parallel of the capability currently existing at our National Laboratories.”

It says the US knew about Israel’s secret nuclear programme in 1960, twenty six years before Vanunu’s disclosures. Senior US officials described a “clearly apparent lack of candour” about the Dimona facility in the Negev desert.

The report also refers to a secret agreement in 1959 between Israel and Norway providing for the sale of Norwegian heavy water to Israel, through Britain.

The report was released in response to a US Freedom of Information Act request. However, some commentators have pointed to the timing of the release, coinciding with deteriorating relations between the Obama White House and the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel, which is estimated to have about 80 nuclear warheads, has not signed the nuclear non proliferation treaty (NPT).

However, it has sent “observers” to an NPT review conference which opened in New York on Monday. Mohammad Javad Zarif, foreign minister of Iran, one of 190 countries which have signed the treaty, was a prominent participant at the conference where he is likely to meet the US secretary of state, John Kerry.

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