ISRAEL'S NUCLEAR arsenal became public with the revelations of Mordecai Vanunu in October, 1986. This Israeli nuclear technician gave testimony and photographs to the London Sunday Times. Kidnapped by Israeli Mossad from Europe, Vanunu was tried for treason in a closed court, pronounced guilty, and sentenced to 18 years imprisonment. Vanunu has spent more than two years in solitary confinement in a six-square-metre cell, under 24-hour camera surveillance. For his "crime" (making Israel's nuclear arsenal public) members of Australian, British and Canadian parliaments have nominated him for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Israel has a nuclear arsenal of 100 - 200 major devices and a delivery system reaching to major Soviet centres. While Gorbachev and Reagan were negotiating the INF Treaty, Israel was publicly testing an INF missile in the Mediterranean: the Jericho-2, which was designed to carry nuclear warheads. Moscow radio called Israel's test a threat. Previously, Israel had tested it in South Africa. Israel and South Africa have worked closely on nuclear projects, including the 1979 joint explosion of a bomb in the South Atlantic.
Israel's strategy is the subject of a startling article by Helena Cobban, of the International Institute of Strategic Studies.1 She reports not only Israeli discussion of the use of nuclear weapons for attacks on the Soviet Union, but also quotes Israeli officials on nuclear blackmail against the U.S.
On January 20, 1987, Amos Rubin, then newly installed economy advisor to Prime Minister Shamir, was reported in the Christian Science Monitor as saying: "If left to its own, [Israel] will have no choice but to fall back on a riskier defence which will endanger itself and the world at large." Explaining that he meant nuclear defence, he said it was "another...reason why the U.S. should continue to ease the burden Israel bears in fielding massive conventional forces."
A 1976 Time Magazine interview, unattributed but widely believed to be then Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Dayan, when combined with close reading of the Kissinger memoirs, indicates that Israel assembled nuclear bombs for use in the 1973 war, on the night of October 8-9. Threat of their use helped obtain further U.S. conventional weapon supplies.
Who controls Israel's nuclear bombs? Shamir? Sharon? Peres? Rabin?
Nuclear and chemical proliferation in the Middle East are inseparable. They must command the peace movement's practical attention. And as a conscientious peace activist, Mordechai Vanunu deserves our practical support.
A postcard is support. Israeli authorities may block its delivery, so send notice of it to Mordechai's brother, Meir, who coordinates the International Support Campaign. He is a refugee in England: Meir revealed the details of how the Israeli Mossad kidnapped his brother from Europe, a "crime" for which the Israeli government wants to prosecute him. British authorities have granted him an indefinite stay while his refugee application is considered.
Mordechai Vanunu: Ashquelon Prison, Ashquelon, Israel. Meir Vanunu: The International Campaign to Free Mordechai Vanunu and For a Nuclear-Free Middle East, P.O. Box 1328, London, N.W. 6 England.
Mr. Briemberg is a member of the board of the Near East Cultural and Educational Foundation of Canada.
1World Policy Journal, Summer 1988.