Saturday, May 19, 2007

Triple cross. Israel. The atom bomb & the man who spillled the secrets by Louis Toscano

This is one more book about sensational Mordechai Vanunu story that happened almost two decades ago.

It was a huge story because it is not easy to divulge secrets about Israel. And divulging secrets of secrets that too about atomic program - unheard of.

Vanunu was a technician in Israel's Modena reactor which was meant to generate energy only for peaceful purposes. At least that was Israel said to everyone else including US. But, in fact, it was the place where Israel was merrily making atom bombs, hydrogen bombs while proclaiming ' Israel won't be the first to introduce nuclear weapon in the middle east.' They were right making nuclear weapons and introducing then - there is a world of difference.

Vanunu was a restless young man who was not happy with himself or his life. Being an immigrant from Morocco, he was not thrilled about the kind of treatment non-european Jews like him got in Israel where European Jews dominated most of the fields and held all important affairs in their control.

Vanunu was also a hardcore leftist with strong inclinations towards Palestinians and their cause. He sympathized with them and openly took part in their rallies and was also interested in communism. How come a person with so many risks was hired and retained to work on most sensitive departments of Modena is inexplicable especially in the case of Israel which turns down people even when it perceives of slightest risks.

After being disillusioned by his job, one fine day Vanunu  took many pictures of sensitive areas of the reactor which when published would prove beyond any doubt the Israel had WMDs.

After resigning from his job, Vanunu went for a world hike traveling across many countries in south Asia, finally landing in Australia where he spent significant time. He shared his secrets with some people in Australia and one of them was an international con-man who felt he could make a ton of money if he could broker a deal between Vanunu and some rich tabloid which was willing to pay any sum for Vanunu's story. Thus Vanunu got introduced to Sunday Mirror tabloid in England.

Sunday Mirror which felt it had landed on the story of the millennium got Vanunu to England and spent weeks verifying and corroborating all that he had to say. Vanunu did not want any monetary payments from his story. He just wanted the world to know about Israel's true intentions. Or at least that's how he came across to everyone.

It was not long before such a news that some former Modena employee was planning on sharing secrets reached Israel's administration through its famed intelligence agency - Mossad. If Israel were to go by text book rules regarding how to handle such situations, it was easy for them to bump off Vanunu anywhere using the stealthy power of Mossad. But, a few things came in between. At least during those times, it was against government policy to kill Israeli citizens especially fellow Jews. Secondly, it was already late in the game and quite a few people and press knew about Vanunu and killing him would have only made any rumors about Vanunu, his plans about sharing secrets about Israel's nuclear capability credible to the world.

This is when the shrewd politicians like Pees, Shamir etc. played a game of genius. They demonstrated how to make lemonade if life hands you a lemon. Here was a man who was going to declare to the world that Israel had nuclear weapons. Israel in fact wanted the world in general and Arab countries in particular that it indeed had nuclear weapons and its enemies be better careful. Israel felt there was not going to much better opportunity than this to get some indirect publicity without any accountability at all. With evidence Vanunu had it was going to be clear beyond any doubt that Israel had bombs and Israel could repeat its broken record tune of not going to be the first to introduce the bomb.

So, Israel gave enough time for Vanunu and tabloids to get ready to publish the story. Just before when it was time to publish the story, Israel put its Mossad machinery into game. Using time tested honey trap (i.e. using sex as a tool in espionage), Vanunu was terribly lonely in London was tricked to follow an attractive woman to Italy. This woman was a Mossad agent and once in Italy it was easy for Mossad to transfer him to Israel where he was going to undergo due course of law.

By doing this Israel played a master stroke. By making Vanunu disappear just in time, there was none to provide any substantiation to what got published in tabloids but the news story was credible enough as it had photos and all details. By announcing to the world the arrest of Vanunu, Israel came clean that it had not killed Vanunu as many would have gone to belieive if Vanunu were to disappear without any trace. By charging Vanunu on very general counts of violation of his employment contract, Israel no where gave an impression that it put any value on his actual disclosures. As far as Israel was concerned it was trying one of its citizens because he had violated his employment contract which did not necessarily mean that he was being tried for disclosing actual nuclear secrets. This is one stone and multiple birds kinda scenario. Great deal for Vanunu.

This book stands out among several books that have been published regarding Vanunu affair. Major emphasis in other books is on the honey trap. No wonder people would salivate on raunchy details of a female spy using her charms to lure Vanunu from the safety of London to Rome only to be arrested by Israel. This book is probably the first book which provide details about the political machinations that went behinds the screens and how master diplomat Simon Peres convinced others of his plan to let Vanunu talk and bringing him back at the right time and they trying him for very generic offense. That's a master stroke.

Great book!

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