Israel says it’s reinforcing its nuclear sites because of Iranian threats

In rare remark, Israeli atomic energy chief tells international conference that Jewish state is upgrading its facilities to ‘withstand any attack’

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

A partial view of the Dimona nuclear power plant in the southern Israeli Negev desert, on September 8, 2002. (AFP/Thomas Coex)
A partial view of the Dimona nuclear power plant in the southern Israeli Negev desert, on September 8, 2002. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

Israel’s atomic energy chief on Tuesday told an international forum that the country has been reinforcing its nuclear facilities in light of threats made by Iran and Hezbollah.

The comments represented a highly irregular move for Israel, which generally prefers to remain mum on its nuclear activities.

The head of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, Ze’ev Snir, made the remarks at the International Atomic Energy Agency forum in Vienna on Tuesday.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran openly and explicitly calls for Israel’s destruction,” Snir said in his address.

Ze’ev Snir (The Official CTBTO Photostream / Wikipedia)

“We cannot ignore the repeated and explicit threats made by Iran and its proxies to attack Israel’s nuclear sites,” he said.

“These outrageous threats require Israel to take action and continue to protect and defend its nuclear facilities. These facilities are constantly upgraded and reinforced, in line with IAEA safety guidelines, in order to withstand any attack,” Snir added.

The Israeli atomic energy chief appeared to be referring to comments made by Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorist group, who has often threatened to attack Israel’s nuclear facility in Dimona.

Snir called for the international body, which monitors nuclear activities around the world, to focus its attention more on Iran and Syria, whom he said “pose significant proliferation threats to the region and the world.”

He noted that Syria had built an “undeclared, secretive military nuclear reactor” in the Deir el-Zour region in the early 2000s — which Israel bombed in 2007.

Snir also pointed to the fact that the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was necessary because of the Islamic Republic’s repeated efforts to obtain an atomic weapon.

“There is no other country in the world with a JCPoA. Iran is the only country with such an agreement, specifically because of these violations, and because it threatens regional peace and security,” Snir said.

The Israeli Atomic Energy Commission director-general also requested the IAEA remove its permanent agenda item relating to the Jewish state’s alleged nuclear weapons capabilities.

“The agenda item entitled, ‘Israeli Nuclear Capabilities,’ placed on the agenda each year, is politically driven, and contradicts the IAEA spirit and mandate,” Snir said.

“Israel finds the discussion of this issue in the General Conference, injurious to the Agency’s credibility as a professional organization,” he said.

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