The Reform Movement canceled a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scheduled for Thursday, amid a deepening divide over the government’s decision to suspend a plan to build a pluralistic prayer pavilion at the Western Wall, even as other US Jewish leaders were reportedly invited to hash over the issue with the prime minister.
“We cannot go about our scheduled meetings as if nothing has happened. The annulment of the Kotel [Western Wall] resolution and the passing of the conversion law have caused an acute crisis between the Israeli government and Diaspora Jewry,” said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism in North America, in a statement.
Jacobs noted that Netanyahu did not even consult with the US Reform and Conservative Jewish leaders, who were in Jerusalem for the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors summit, before announcing the cabinet reversal on Sunday.
“The decision cannot be seen as anything other than a betrayal, and I see no point to a meeting at this time. We will make our arguments in the Supreme Court,” he said.
Jacobs kept a few scheduled meetings in the Knesset on Monday, sitting down with Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni and Yisrael Beytenu MK Robert Ilatov, whose parties were against the government flip-flop on the deal. He also attended and spoke at the Zionist Union and Yesh Atid faction meetings.
Netanyahu will meet with the heads of the Jewish Federation of North America and Jewish federations in Chicago, New York and Cleveland on Monday to talk over the crisis, the Haaretz newspaper reported.
A source quoted by the paper noted that no representatives from the Reform or Conservative movements or the Jewish Agency were invited to attend.
The Prime Minister’s Office and Jewish Federations of North America did not immediately respond to Times of Israel queries.
Earlier on Monday, in a highly unusual move, the Jewish Agency’s executive board decided to cancel a gala dinner at which it was to host Netanyahu. Citing Sunday’s controversial vote, the agency’s board of governors, which is currently convening in the capital, said it “will be changing its entire agenda for the remaining two days of its meetings in Jerusalem, in order to address the ramifications of these decisions.”
The Jewish Agency on Monday also passed a resolution calling on the Israeli government to rescind its decision to halt the creation of a pluralistic prayer pavilion at the Western Wall, saying that the government’s move contradicts the vision of Israel’s founding fathers and the spirit of Zionism.
The resolution, passed unanimously by the agency’s Board of Governors in an emergency meeting in Jerusalem, marked the first time the institution — which predates the existence of the State of Israel — has explicitly called on the Israeli cabinet to walk back a decision.
The government decision came amid calls from Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox lawmakers to dial back the plan to establish an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall, which was approved by government ministers in January 2016.
It also coincided with a High Court of Justice deadline Sunday for the state to respond to petitions on its failure to implement the agreement and construct the mixed-gender plaza near Robinson’s Arch.
Also Sunday, ministers approved a bill to pull government recognition of private conversions to Judaism, in a move condemned by Reform and Conservative Jewish leaders.