Several top nuclear scientists said to weigh resigning to protest judicial overhaul

Some of the country’s leading experts are discussing quitting the high level Atomic Energy Commission, TV report says

View of the nuclear reactor in Dimona, southern Israel, August 13, 2016. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
View of the nuclear reactor in Dimona, southern Israel, August 13, 2016. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Several senior scientists on the Israel Atomic Energy Commission have threatened to resign to protest the government’s judicial overhaul, a Tuesday report said, a day after the government passed into law the first piece of legislation in its plan to diminish the judiciary.

The scientists are among several dozen experts who are “responsible for the development of Israel’s nuclear capability,” Channel 13 reported, referring to foreign reports about the Jewish state’s alleged nuclear weapons arsenal.

The report, which did not cite sources, said the scientists had been discussing their possible resignations in recent weeks, but there was no collective protest action, and that each of the scientists would decide on the matter individually.

The scientists were still deliberating the matter with each other and their predecessors, along with “heads of the scientific military community,” but have not breached the subject with their superiors, Channel 13 reported.

Southern Israel’s Dimona nuclear research facility, officially called the Shimon Peres Negev Nuclear Research Center, is the home of Israel’s alleged nuclear weapons program, according to foreign reports.

Foreign estimates have claimed that Israel maintains a nuclear weapons cache ranging from dozens to hundreds of warheads. But Israel has never formally acknowledged possessing a nuclear arsenal, instead maintaining a policy of “nuclear ambiguity.”

Members of Israel’s security forces use a water cannon to disperse demonstrators blocking an entrance to the Knesset in Jerusalem on July 24, 2023. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

The threat from the scientists came amid concerns that protest resignations in the military would begin to harm Israel’s security. More than 10,000 military reservists have said they will not continue volunteering for reserve duty in protest of the judicial overhaul.

The reservists — who are a key part of the army’s routine activities, including in top units — have warned in recent months they will not be able to serve in an undemocratic Israel, which some charge the country will become if the government’s overhaul plans are realized.

The military warned on Tuesday that combat readiness may soon be harmed if reservist troops do not show up for duty over a lengthy period of time.

The IDF has said that the “cohesion,” or unity of the military, has already been harmed amid the protests and will take time to fix.

Dozens of former top security officials — including ex-heads of the IDF, Mossad and Shin Bet — sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday calling on him to halt the judicial overhaul legislation to allow for renewed talks.

Alongside the military protests, the judicial overhaul has sparked massive, sustained street demonstrations and some labor strikes since the Netanyahu government announced the plan in January.

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