By Yehonatan Geffen

At his last meeting in Washington the Prime Minister asked the US President to free Pollard without any connection to the peace process. In the last month there has been a lot of talk about amnesty for prisoners, with or without blood on their hands, depending on how closely you look at the hand.

And I say: Mr President, Mr Ehud Barak, your honours, it is high time to free Vanunu, who had nothing but graffiti on his hand. Mordechai Vanunu is not a criminal, he is no security risk to Israel (he did what he did because he thought Israel was a security risk to us), and there isn't one atomic secret that the Americans didn't know before Vanunu whispered it.

A Jewish-American Senator (Paul Wellstone, Democrat of Minnesota), has asked President Clinton to influence Israel to consider freeing Vanunu, but we don't have to wait, in every single case, for Washington to issue instructions or requests that we can't refuse.

If there is one thing I have no doubt about, it's that Vanunu acted from humanitarian, cosmopolitan motives and a genuine concern about the human race. His violation, if you can call it a that, was not done for money and it was not given to Israel's direct enemies. If we free Vanunu now and realize that what he tried to do was be a total revolutionary, out of real fear of the real atom bomb, it will not only be a kindness to Vanunu, it will show the whole world that the fear of the atom bomb and the nuclear race scares all of us and sometimes makes people do desperate things (just as dropping an atomb bomb is a desperate act).

Mordechai Vanunu has already served 13 out of the 18 years of his sentence. Terrorists, murderers and rapists who were put in prison with him have long since been freed, thanks to all kinds of deals and diplomatic considerations, and some may even have had time to murder and rape again.

Free Vanunu now, he has already paid. And we all know that if by chance a bomb should fall by mistake (which can happen a lot more easily than we think), he will get the Nobel Prize and a third of his sentence deducted. But then a third of the world will also have been deducted, so maybe we don't have all that much time to be humane and generous, and/or wait for America to decide for us once again.

Maariv, August 6 99

Translation: Yael Lotan