Rivlin was reportedly not invited to renaming of Dimona nuclear facility
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Rivlin was reportedly not invited to renaming of Dimona nuclear facility

In apparent snub, president not asked to attend ceremony in honor of his predecessor Shimon Peres; PMO says the event was only for ex-president’s family and staff

President Shimon Peres (center) and outgoing Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin (right) at the Knesset swearing-in ceremony in Jerusalem, February 5, 2013. (screenshot/Channel 2)
President Shimon Peres (center) and outgoing Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin (right) at the Knesset swearing-in ceremony in Jerusalem, February 5, 2013. (screenshot/Channel 2)

In an apparent snub, President Reuven Rivlin was not invited to a Wednesday ceremony renaming the nuclear research facility in Dimona after his predecessor, former president Shimon Peres, according to a report on Thursday.

The Prime Minister’s Office said in response to the Haaretz report that the event was intentionally kept small, restricted to only Peres’s family and the workers from the nuclear site. However, the report said Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing Likud party, was invited to the event.

Netanyahu and Rivlin have a famously acrimonious relationship, which though mostly kept under wraps, has seen the president — whose role is mostly ceremonial — publicly criticize government policy. Wednesday’s event also came as Rivlin came down with the flu, though the report noted that the president was also not invited to the ceremony when it was originally scheduled on earlier dates.

The event had been postponed several times because the prime minister did not wish to draw attention to the nuclear research site while the international community was discussing the nuclear accord with Iran. It was also delayed because the scientists who worked at the facility were involved in a dispute over their work conditions, which was subsequently resolved.

The Dimona event was eventually planned for May 1. But the day before, ahead of US President Donald Trump’s decision about withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, Netanyahu revealed the 100,000 files from the Iranian nuclear archive smuggled from Tehran by the Mossad. These files showed the Islamic Republic had for years worked on developing nuclear weapons, and that it has put plans in place to pursue such weapons despite signing the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. The ceremony was subsequently rescheduled.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a ceremony renaming the nuclear reactor in Dimona to the Shimon Peres Negev Nuclear Research Center after the late Israeli statesman, on August 29, 2018. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Wednesday’s ceremony was an unprecedented tacit public acknowledgment of Israel’s nuclear capabilities, with the prime minister alluding to the country’s nuclear deterrence.

“Shimon aspired toward peace but he knew that true peace can be achieved only if our hands have a strong grip on defensive weaponry,” Netanyahu said.

Israel has never acknowledged possessing nuclear weapons, instead maintaining a policy of “strategic ambiguity.” Foreign reports have put the size of Israel’s nuclear arsenal in the dozens to hundreds of weapons.

“Our enemies know very well what Israel is capable of doing. They are familiar with our policy. Whoever tries to hurt us – we hurt them,” he said. “Whoever threatens us with destruction puts himself in similar danger, and in any case will not achieve his goal.”

Peres, who later became known for his efforts to reach peace with the Palestinians and Arab countries, played a leading role in the early development of Israel’s military industry and the nuclear facility in Dimona, which was initially portrayed to the world as a textile factory.

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