Notes on the Knesset Nuclear Debate

By Yael Lotan
The Israeli Committee for Mordechai Vanunu
and for a Middle East Free of Atomic, Chemical and Biological Weapons
Feb 3 2000

A brief summary of yesterday's events...

There was no debate as such. Issam Makhoul barely managed to read his prepared speech, because of the shouting and heckling. He was preceded by the speaker of the house offering a lengthy apology for allowing this subject to come up, stating that it had been approved by the highest authorities, who didn't want the issue to be taken up by the High Court of Justice. The shrieks came from the right wing and some of the orthodox MKs, and one especially rowdy member of One Israel (Barak's party). But afterwards a woman MK from Meretz - a liberal party and member of the ruling coalition - asked simply what was all the fuss about, seeing that all the information was available worldwide and on the internet. The deputy speaker chose to eject SIX MKs from the hall - all, by chance, Arabs... The evening news on Israeli television reported the whole thing, describing it as an unusually 'stormy session' in the Knesset, and (falsely) reiterated that it was all Arabs versus Jews. It was not.

Another update:

The three main papers, two tabloids and a broadsheet (Ha'aretz) published much the same stories, with a picture of Issam Makhoul ( in one paper also a picture of Hayim Ramon), with a description of the so-called stormy session in the Knesset. One of the tabloids repeated what was said on TV, namely that it was Jews versus Arabs, which is not quite true. None of them, and this is significant, bothered to write an editorial on the subject - clearly the editors were not overwhelmed by the so-called 'revelations'.

But here's an interesting development. Dalya Itzik, who is Minister of the Environment, demanded that the Dimona reactor precinct be opened for inspection by her ministry, because it has recently been revealed that the acquifer of the Negev has become polluted, and she said it was necessary to find out if the waste from the reactor was not responsible. She made no reference to yesterday's Knesset debate, but the connection is pretty obvious. She immediately got a response from the Atomic Energy Commission, which assured her that (a) the waste from the reactor is being buried on site; (b) the pollution of the acquifer is due to industrial effluent.