'THE REVELATION SPURRED THE ARAB STATES TO TRY HARDER'
November 24, 1999
By Yoram Yarkoni
· The publication in the ST increased the world's suspicions regarding Israel in the area of the atom, and even spurred hostile nations to 'achieve a balance' with Israel, so stated Shimon Peres and Abba Eban at Vanunu's trial.
· Shimon Peres, the Prime Minister who ordered Vanunu's abduction, and Abba Eban, formerly chairman of the [Knesset] Security and Foreign Relations Committee, were summoned as witnesses by Vanunu and his lawyer, Avigdor Feldman. The Defence called on them to sustain its argument that the revelation in the ST did not harm the State of Israel, and that what was published was already known and was not new.
· Peres' testimony did not help the Defence. He stated: 'These details, whether they were all correct or not all correct, were prohibited from publication, otherwise they would have been published.' He proceeded to explain one of the reasons why nothing must be published on the subject of the 'atom' in Israel: 'Among all the other considerations, there is also the [Arab] boycott on Israel: there are some who supply us with parts and we undertake not to publish the source of the purchase. The Government must very often classify [i.e., keep secret] the source of the purchase,' said Peres, and added, 'This is not the only reason, of course.'
· The two politicians described the damage that they thought the revelation had done to the State of Israel. Peres said: 'In my opinion, the publication spurred some of the Arab states to follow hard aims, undesirable to the State of Israel.' Eban said something similar: 'In my opinion, the seriousness lies in the fact that this publication turned on a red light in hostile countries. There is no doubt that such a publication and such exposure would result in spurring our enemies to take steps to achieve a balance, in this area or in others.'
· Further damage mentioned in their testimonies was the increased suspicion regarding Israel's activities in the atomic field. Peres said that 'the publication increased in an undesirable way the suspicion and reserve vis-a-vis the State of Israel.' In reply to a question if Israel was approached by other states following the publication, Peres said, 'There have not been any official approaches.'
· Eban testified that following the publication 'there is certainly a greater watchfulness of the sources of the material [obtained by] Israel. I refer to the argument we're having with the Norwegian government, and there is no doubt that more eyes are watching the Israeli activity following this loud publication.'
· Eban also volunteered some details about the parliamentary supervision of the reactor. 'As chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, and members of the subcommittee that supervises the reactor, [we] follow and supervise continually, including visiting the reactor in Dimona.' He added, 'I would like to confirm that the follow-up and supervision are constant and thorough. It's not like the committee receives an annual report. The parliamentary supervision is conducted in a most efficient way. The members of the committee have complete knowledge of what is taking place at the reactor. The committee visits the place more than once.'
· Nevertheless, replying to Attorney Feldman's question if he found the information in the ST new, Eban said: 'When I read it it was new to me, surprisingly new.'
· Peres was also asked if the publication initiated by Vanunu was new. The only part of his answer we were allowed to print was: 'In my opinion, Vanunu's publication published things that had so far not...'
· At some point one of the judges intervened and asked Peres if it was possible that there was nevertheless some usefulness in the publication. 'I don't know about any usefulness in the publication,' said Peres. 'Not even when I consider the arguments that were brought forward in mitigation - for instance, that Vanunu's publication has increased Israel's deterrent capability.'