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Dimona reactor in city tax kerfuffle

Municipality demands massive raise in property taxes from secretive facility

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

The Dimona nuclear reactor as viewed from a satellite. (United States Government)
The Dimona nuclear reactor as viewed from a satellite. (United States Government)

Israel’s secretive Dimona nuclear facility, long-rumored to house part of the country’s reported nuclear weapons program, has found itself recently dealing with a surprisingly quotidian problem — property taxes.

The Dimona municipality is looking to raise annual taxes on the Negev desert facility from NIS 5 million ($1.4 million) to NIS 63 million ($18.2 million).

The two sides have enjoyed an agreement since 2005, but the deal expires in September, and Dimona’s new mayor, Benny Biton, is looking to cash in.

According to city officials, who measured the site using satellite images, the reactor sits on land that should be taxed up to NIS 66 million.

The Negev Nuclear Research Center staff appealed to the Beersheba District Court, asking the judge to extend the agreement for another 10 years. The court’s decision has not yet been handed down.

The reactor staff argues that since the facility does not use municipal infrastructure, including electricity and water, the property taxes it pays are fair.

“The municipality gets this tax without investing resources, because the center does not use infrastructures or external services,” the nuclear center said in a statement, according to Haaretz. “To our regret, this is not the first time the city has tried to change the property tax rate set in the agreement. We are convinced that this time too, the disagreement will be solved between the two sides.”

Dimona’s then-mayor Meir Cohen, who is currently an member of Knesset representing the Yesh Atid party, tried raising the facility’s taxes in 2011, but was not allowed to survey the site because of security concerns.

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