manus manum lavat-one hand washes the other
by Roy Tov
A few days ago, on June 25, 2013, the National Security Archive published an article entitled The Israel-Argentina Yellowcake Connection, describing “Previously Secret Documents Show That Canadian Intelligence Discovered That Israel Purchased Yellowcake from Argentines during 1963-1964.” It doesn’t contain groundbreaking news, but it provides official references to Israel’s nuclear program.
The main points of interest were that Argentina sold 80 metric tons of uranium oxide to Israel and that the USA was unaware “that the original French design for Dimona included a large underground reprocessing facility (Machon 2) was one of Israel’s deepest nuclear secrets, which Mordecai Vanunu later revealed.” The reprocessing unit is key for the production of plutonium.
Dimona in the 1960’s by National Security Archive
Picture taken from main road, which is open to the public
The Whistleblower of Dimona: Israel, Vanunu, and the Bomb
The official article doesn’t mention how the mineral arrived to Israel. This operation included two strategic assets of Israel: Zim* and the Port of Haifa.
One hand washes the other
Foreign idioms abound in Hebrew; even Acadian ones can be found.** Yet, one must be careful, their meanings often get awry; cultural boundaries can be granite-solid. “One hand washes the other” entered Hebrew, but it is used to denote a corruption ring, more often than not businesses agreeing on illegitimate practices for their mutual profit.
This is the key for understanding Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu dramatic announcement of Israel’s largest bid ever. On July 3, he announced: “The age of seaport monopoly is over – and no strike will stop it.” That was after declaring an international bid for the construction of two private seaports in Haifa and Ashdod, next to the actual ports managed by the Histadrut (National Labor Federation). The construction of each port is evaluated at more than $1 billion.
“We began with ‘open skies’ and now are moving towards ‘open seas’ and it brings great tidings,” Netanyahu said, referring to the recent strike of Israeli airlines after Israel signed an agreement with the European Union on a policy allowing free competition among companies.
Netanyahu Announces Ports Bid
The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean
“I want to tell my friends in the Histadrut – it’s over, no more. It cannot be that 2,000 people will paralyze the State. We’re bringing more traffic and we’ll not stop. I say that the age of seaport monopoly is over,” Netanyahu added, not bothering to explain why his words were just demagogy.
It is true that he is destroying the workers union monopoly, but he is replacing it with a tightly controlled oligopoly. Bids in Israel tend to be “sewn-bids,” bids that are designed to meet the offer of the favored winner. The Minister of Transport—also present at the event—said that the first stage of the bid is open to all while only seven companies would advance to the final stage. Each port would be built by a different one.
Unsurprisingly, the Hebrew media already reported that the expected winners are American and Chinese corporations. “One hand washes the other” is the principle working here. Zim, the Israeli shipping company, has agreements around the world with ports’ operators, including with the expected winners. The bid is not free, but an expansion of current businesses.
A related player is Spain, which a few months ago signed a multi-billion agreement with Israel on the development of transport infrastructure (see Spain Joins Israel’s Gas Alliance). Together with China, and France Spain would compete for the creation of a $4 billion high-speed railway between the Mediterranean and the Red Seas, which will ran parallel to the Trans-Israel Pipeline.+
“Is this an article?”
The subtitle of this final section reflects what many readers may be thinking at this stage. Which ports have Zim agreements with? What is the trade volume? These and similar questions are legitimate, yet difficult to answer. Israel loves to hide strategic assets.
One of the strangest events in Zim history was the sinking of its Mineral Dampier ship in the China Sea in 1995 after a collision with Hanjin Madras, another cargo ship. If in Israel at the time, one could not ignore the event. For over a month, the attempt to retrieve the sailors’ bodies was on the headlines.
Yet, if one tries to find reports about an Israeli ship accident in the China Sea, the results would be disappointing. Zim operated the Mineral Dampier under Liberian flag. The best information on the accident appears in the COURT OF APPEAL, ENGLAND & WALES, filed under The Hanjin Madras – vs – The Mineral Dampier. Can one guess that?
The rescue attempts were public, but little else was published. Persistent rumors at the time claimed that Israel was attempting also to rescue a “highly sensitive” cargo. Was it uranium oxide? Who was the intended recipient? Which country next to the China Sea needs “yellowcake?”
Yes, this is an article. In this Orwellian world, where democracies spy on their citizens while hiding their actions this is what free people can find: lies, manipulations and sewn-bids.
* Zim (pronounced Tsim) is a strategic shipping company. More than that, it is Israel’s lifeline. It brings wheat and oil from the US: Israel doesn’t produce enough food to feed its citizens and has no significant amounts of oil. The list goes on with every strategic product imaginable; secret cargo destined for special industries is Zim’s norm. For example, Dow Chemical‘s Syltherm 800—described in The Cross of Bethlehem—for the nuclear plant in Dimona is brought from Senegal by this company. Zim is strategically placed for this role, with a fleet of about a hundred vessels, 13 of them state-of-the-art high-TEU ships. They serve 180 ports of call around the world, with agents in 145 countries.
That is not all. What are the factual boundaries of Israel’s nuclear strike capabilities? The answer is in Six Million Ships.
** The phrase “overstepped threshold” (“askupa nidreset”) is a mix of Acadian and Hebrew, it denotes somebody being exploited.
+ Between 1967 and the overthrow of the Iranian Shah, the Trans-Israel pipeline, running between Eilat and Ashkelon, was used to transport crude oil from Iran to Europe. Since 2003, Russia uses it to supply Asian markets. Tankers from Novorossiysk deliver their oil in Ashkelon and then the oil is reloaded onto tankers in Eilat for shipment to Asia. This route is shorter than the traditional one around Africa and cheaper than via the Suez Canal. The planned high-speed railway will run 350km between Beersheba, and the port of Eilat, completing the railway access between the Mediterranean and Red Sea ports of Israel. In 2005, the Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline connecting Azerbaijan to the Turkish port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean Sea was inaugurated. The pipeline can be used for transshipment of Azerbaijani oil via the Trans-Israel pipeline. The oil is then transported to Eastern Asia, similarly to what is now being done by the Russians. Israel desperately needs Azerbaijani oil and Azerbaijan depends on Israel for expanding its oil markets. Despite historical and cultural links, Iran cannot help Azerbaijan in this, mainly due to the ongoing Western sanctions on Iranian oil operations (see Azerbaijan-Israel: A Shia—Jewish Alliance). Israel’s high-speed railway is not intended for the transportation of tourists to its Red Sea resort town—Eilat—but for the transport of industrial products and for backing the oil and gas transmission networks.
Roi Tov is a graduate—among others—of Tel Aviv University and the Weizmann Institute of Science. In addition to his memoir, Tov is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Molecular Physics and other scientific journals. He won various travel writing and photography awards.
In his writings, he tries to reveal life in Israel as a Christian Israel Defense Force (IDF) officer—from human rights violations to the use of an extensive network of underground agents. He was recognized first as a refugee and subsequently as political prisoner of Bolivia.