Israelis Take Modest Step for Vanunu

Israeli supporters of imprisoned anti-nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu scored a modest break-through this fall at a meeting with newly appointed Justice Minister Jossi Beilin, who holds a key to his early release.

Beilin promised to consider visiting Vanunu at Ashkelon Prison and to weigh his supporters' arguments that the former nuclear technician has already told his full story and has no further nuclear secrets to reveal.

Author Yael Lotan described the October 4 meeting in Beilin's office as "courteous if not altogether cordial." She said Beilin was a good listener. Others who took part from the Israel Committee for Mordechai Vanunu were journalists Haim Baram, Gideon Spiro and Giora Neuman.

Also taking part was Nili Arad of the State Attorney's office, who has appeared for the state on many occasions. She said she had come to respect Vanunu.

The meeting with the justice minister was the first since early 1996, when an international delegation was told by David Libai that Vanunu had threatened to reveal more state secrets if released.

Referring to that, the Israeli delegation told Beilin that Vanunu's intention simply was to raise the Issue of Israeli nuclear policy rather than to reveal nuclear secrets that he does not possess.

"By and large we got the impression that Beilin was interested enough to want to look into the case," Lotan reported. As a cabinet officer having jurisdiction over the case, Beilin could have a major impact on any governmental decision to pardon or parole Vanunu before the end of his 18-year term in 2004.