Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai on Friday warned that backtracking on the government-approved plan to establish a pluralistic prayer pavilion at the Western Wall would result in a rift with US Jewry.
“Israel has committed itself to the Western Wall agreement and it must abide by it, there is no withdrawing from it,” Shai said in a statement.
“Israel is running away from itself by succumbing to the pressure of the ultra-Orthodox and is losing our most strategic asset in the US,” he said. “Time after time, the prime minister chooses not to decide, and in doing so is endangering an important relationship.”
Israeli government ministers in January 2016 approved a plan to establish an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall, but little progress has been made. The state must respond to High Court of Justice petitions on their failure to implement the agreement and construct the plaza near Robinson’s Arch by next week.
This week, Israel’s Chief Rabbinate demanded it be permitted its own legal representation in the High Court to protest the establishment of the Western Wall mixed-gender plaza, and ultra-Orthodox parties demanded the “total cancellation” of last year’s plan.
The Rabbinate’s request was backed up by Jewish Home Minister Uri Ariel and his party member Betzalel Smotrich in a letter they penned to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, which also implored the Israeli leader to scrap the deal in defiance of “extremist elements across the sea,” in an apparent reference to Reform and Conservative Jewry.
According to a Monday report in Haaretz, the state will likely tell the court it plans to not implement the scheme. A source familiar with the deliberations told the daily that Netanyahu has “officially decided not to decide,” on the matter.
The demands by the ultra-Orthodox lawmakers, which marked at least the fourth time they have publicly sought to dissolve the deal, were decried by Women of the Wall and the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Movement.
On Thursday, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism warned that nixing the plan would be a “slap in the face to the vast majority of world Jewry.”
In a statement, Rabbi Rick Jacobs said reports that Netanyahu’s government was considering backtracking on the deal were “deeply alarming, but, sadly, not surprising.”
“We are all too familiar with pluralism being held hostage to coalition politics, and to the rights of non-Orthodox Jews being subjugated to those of the ultra-Orthodox,” he said.
Women of the Wall last week also decried the pushback by the ultra-Orthodox parties as “outrageous” and said Netanyahu “has yet to harness the courage” to enforce the agreement.