Uzi Even, one of Israel’s leading nuclear scientists, proposed in an article in Maariv (the Alternative Information Center also covered the story) that Israel offer to shut down its Dimona reactor in return for Iran closing ending nuclear research for military purposes. It’s a radical, far-reaching and innovative proposal which, for that reason, has no hope of being adopted. Israel’s leaders have no interest in shutting Dimona, even if they could end the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons. They’d far prefer to destroy the facilities militarily and so not to have to engage in any negotiations with the Iranians or to be beholden to them in any way.
In some ways, Even’s suggestion is quite clever since Dimona is considered the oldest operating nuclear plant, about which he’s warned Israel in the past. It’s similar to the Fukushima reactor design and therefore quite vulnerable to cooling system failure. He believes it should be retired. It’s not clear that Even is saying that Israel should shut down its entire nuclear weapons program. If that wasn’t on the table it doesn’t seem like a fair deal. But still it’s intriguing because it moves the debate away from military force and toward a negotiated solution.
Even also believes that even if Iran does achieve a nuclear weapon, that this doesn’t pose an existential threat to Israel:
No one in the world believes that Israel stands empty-handed in the face of an Iranian nuclear weapon. The entire Arab world including Iran [sic] are convinced that we have a full complement of nuclear weapons. A nuclear Iran is something we definitely could live with.
Think about this, one of Israel’s foremost nuclear scientists who worked for many years in its weapons program believes Israel can live with this threat. While a prime minister who never rose above middling rank and has no particular expertise as a military strategist, believes Israel’s existence is in mortal danger from such a potential weapon. The general says Israel is wrong to attack. The civilian says it must. Whose perspective would you trust more?
An interesting footnote to Even’s career is that he was fired from his senior military post in Israel’s nuclear program because he was gay. When he came forward to publicly reveal this, it forced Israel to change its policy about gays serving in the IDF.