Spotlight Shifts to Senate

Vanunu Seeks Help In U.S. Upper House

Attention shifts to the U.S. Senate this fall on the international effort to free Mordechai Vanunu, imprisoned in Israel since 1986 for blowing the whistle on that country's nuclear weapons program.

Encouraged by successes in the House of Representatives and in the White House, the U.S. Campaign to Free Mordechai Vanunu set its sights on a Senate letter urging President Clinton to ask Israel to free the prisoner-of-conscience on humanitarian grounds.

Two Senators - Paul Wellstone of Minnesota and Barbara Boxer of California - indicated support for humanitarian intercession. (See Page 2.) Others were considering a joint letter to the President as this issue of "I Am Your Spy" went to press.

Last March, 36 House members signed a letter to the President saying Vanunu had suffered enough for his "crime of conscience" and ought to be released. Clinton replied that he shares their concern about Vanunu's prison treatment.

Gearing up its efforts to build Capitol Hill support for Vanunu's release, the U.S. Campaign in July hired Tim Rieger to head up its Senate approach. Rieger was formerly an aide to Rep. Lynn Rivers of Michigan, who initiated the House letter last winter.

While the U.S. effort centered in Washington, Vanunu's Israeli supporters were preparing an approach to the new government of Labor Prime Minister Ehud Barak. They hoped to arrange an appointment for an international delegation some time this fall with Yossi Beilin, the progressive new minister of justice.

A British-American-Israeli visit in 1996 with David Libai, a former Labor justice minister, seemed to open a door. But it slammed shut a few months later with election of the arch-conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.