President Rivlin Was Not Invited to Nuclear Reactor Renaming Ceremony

The ceremony was postponed several times as not to draw attention to Israel's nuclear capabilities amid the struggle against Iran's nuclear program

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at the Serbia Palace in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, July 26, 2018
Darko Vojinovic,AP

President Reuven Rivlin was not invited to the renaming ceremony of the Negev Nuclear Research Center on Wednesday in southern Israel. The center was named after Rivlin's predecessor, Shimon Peres.

Following Peres' death in 2016, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to name the center after the former president in honor of his contribution to its inception and construction.

The ceremony ended being postponed, mainly due to the Atomic Energy Commission's reticence to draw attention to the center during the international campaign against the nuclear deal with Iran.

Another reason was the fear of protest from the reactor's scientists, who were involved in a work dispute for their wages, which has been resolved.

Netanyahu speaking outside the nuclear plant in Dimona, August 29, 2018.
Kobi Gideon

The ceremony was eventually set for the May 1. On April 30, Netanyahu decided to reveal the "Iranian nuclear archive" ahead of the Trump administration's decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal on May 8.

The ceremony was again rescheduled as to not call attention to the reactor. It was ultimately held on Wednesday, June 28.

The event was unprecedented in light of Israel's nuclear ambiguity, with Netanyahu making a semi-public visit to the reactor and implies the state's nuclear capabilities. "Whoever threatens us with our demise puts himself in similar danger," Netanyahu said.

Rivlin was not invited to the ceremony, despite its formal nature and the fact Peres was Rivlin's antecedent. Him not being invited was also likely unrelated to his medical condition, for which he is being treated with interveinal antibiotics. He was also not invited to the previous date set for the ceremony on May 1.

In response to Haaretz's inquiry, the Prime Minister's Bureau said the decision was made to hold a modest, scaled-down ceremony which chiefly included members of Peres' family and the center's employees.

The statement added the center was named after Peres in honor of his contribution to its formation, "especially in the context of his roles during the early years of the state's existence."

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded to Netanyahu's comment on Wednesday, saying "Iran, a country without nuclear weapons, is threatened with atomic annihilation by a warmonger standing next to an actual nuclear weapons factory. Beyond shameless in the gall."