The map shows the story better than any picture. It depicts an area south of Tel Aviv. On the seashore, the Palmahim air base is marked. At the top, is Rishon LeTziyon (First to Zion), one of Israel's largest cities. Rehovot is also a large city, home to the Weizmann Institute of Science; between it and Ness Tziyona is Israel Institute for Biological Research. This area is home to a substantial percentage of Israel's population. Hiding in small letters north of the town of Yavne is a place named "Gan Soreq." Near it, but not marked in the map, is Soreq Nuclear Research Center, home to one of Israel's two nuclear reactors. The other one is the much larger and better known Negev Nuclear Research Center, located near Dimona. Would you live near any of them if they weren't safe?
Until now, Israel claimed its reactors were safe. Few cases of accidents in them have become public; most of the events were officially denied. In Soreq, one of the workers of a private company working in the site died after being exposed to radioactive radiation in June 1990. No other case was ever admitted by Israel.
Dr. Avner Cohen claims that an accident caused the death of a worker, as well as the radioactive contamination of a sensitive area of Dimona, in 1966. Supporting his claim, a trial started in 2010, after an undisclosed man placed charges claiming that a "serious nuclear accident" took place in the 1960s in Dimona. The event exposed workers to ionizing radiation and poisonous chemicals. 45 People placed similar charges at the Israel Atomic Energy Commission. The Commission claims the charges are "very far from the truth." All other reports on Israeli nuclear accidents could not be confirmed in any way until April 2013, when a dramatic decision was taken by the government.
Anyone even remotely acquainted with Israelis understands that Israel's admission of only one victim in its nuclear programs makes no sense. Yitzhak Rabin often complained about the "It will be OK"* Israeli spirit. "It will be OK," is the invariable Israeli answer to any problem. It seldom checks out; it is seldom said while knowing the solution to the problem. Hearing an Israeli saying "It will be OK," one should begin to seriously worry. If they add "Don't worry,"** drop everything and run away as fast as you can. Plutonium sauce is likely to be a staple in Dimona's cafeteria.
On April 4, 2013, Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni created a committee that will decide on the compensation to be given to the victims of nuclear accidents, who contracted cancer. Heading the committee is Justice (ret.) Eliezer Rivlin, other members are Ben Gurion University's President Rivka Carmi, former Head of Tel Aviv University's Law Faculty Ariel Porat, Dr. Nir Peled, a member of the Finances Ministry and the Deputy Attorney General. The committee has one year to decide on the criteria to award compensation to the victims. Was this a sincere attempt of the State of Israel to fix some of its wrongs? Hardly so, the decision came only after an astonishing number of lawsuits against the Israel Atomic Energy Commission were placed by victims. The government is attempting to bypass publicity and shame by creating a secret committee. The victim's attorney reacted saying: "We have had bad experiences with committees."
In the sad Israeli reality, Attorney Ilan Kaner amounts to a modern Don Quixote. Placing a lawsuit against Israel Atomic Energy Commission, headed by Prime Minister Netanyahu, equals suicide. Yet, he is a modern and smarter Don Quixote. He didn't place just one lawsuit. He placed 118 lawsuits of victims and an undisclosed number of lawsuits of families of deceased workers.
The Ministry of Justice panicked, and with a good reason; contrary to early claims that the rate of cancer for workers equals the rate in the Jewish population, the attorney has proof that in certain installations 50% of the workers contracted cancer. After the decision to create the committee, Mr. Kaner said: "We said already 15 years ago that the correct way is the legislation of the compensation instead of tiredly disclosing everything in Court. We are careful, we had bad experiences with similar (secret) committees created in the past. There were ugly tricks against sick workers and their families, there were 'acts of carcasses' (Hebrew idiom, roughly "dirty tricks") by the authorities."
*"y'ye beseder," in Hebrew. Literally "it-will-be in-order." **"al tid'ag," in Hebrew. Literally "not you-will-worry."