First-Ever Parliament Debate on Nuclear Issues in Israel

Rayna Moss
Israeli Committee to Free Mordechai Vanunu

January 18 2000

For the first time in its history, the Israeli parliement (Knesset) will hold a debate on the issue of Israel's nuclear policy. Knesset Member Essam Makhoul (Democratic Front for Peace and Equality-Hadash) forced Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg (Labor) to revoke the long-standing policy of the Knesset, which prevented debates on the nuclear issue by having the Speaker deny Knesset Members permission to place this issue on the agenda for debating. Makhoul threatened to petition the High Court of Justice if the Speaker refused to allow the debate. Burg apparently believed that the Knesset's policy would be declared illegal by the Court, and decided to allow the debate to take place next week.

Essam Makhoul, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, has persistently campaigned and lobbied against Israel's secret nuclear program and for freedom for nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu, since he was elected to the Knesset last year. Among other things, he petitioned Israeli President Ezer Weitzman to grant clemency to Vanunu, who has served 13 years of an 18-year sentence for disclosing Israel's nuclear secrets to foreign press.

Residents of Israel should be able to observe the debate on television (Channel 33 on cable). No date has been set for this historic event.