Jewish Agency cancels Netanyahu dinner after Western Wall decision

By
June 26, 2017 08:02

Reform movement leaders also cancel planned meeting with the prime minister, citing the Western Wall saga.

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The Kotel

ULTRA-ORTHODOX MEN walk past soldiers at the Kotel in Jerusalem. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The Jewish Agency on Monday decided to cancel a dinner event with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scheduled in the framework of its Board of Governors meetings, on the heels of two government decisions passed Sunday which deeply disappointed prominent figures of Diaspora Jewry.

The cabinet on Sunday cancelled its January 2016 decision to establish a third plaza at the Western Wall for egalitarian prayer services as well as advancing a controversial conversion bill which would grant the Chief Rabbinate a total monopoly over Jewish conversion in Israel.

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Israel freezes plan for mixed-sex Jewish prayer site at Western Wall (credit: REUTERS)

The Jewish Agency released a statement Monday that "in light of yesterday's decisions by the Government of Israel, the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency 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 scheduled dinner with the participation of the Prime Minister has been cancelled."

The agency's summer board meetings drew hundreds of Jewish leaders from around the world to Jerusalem, and marked 50 years since Jerusalem’s reunification.

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky was a central figure in formulating the plan for the egalitarian prayer section at the Western Wall, and -- along with many other politicians, Jewish groups and religious leaders -- he expressed deep disappointment over the determination to indefinitely freeze implementation of the agreement.

“Five years ago, the prime minister asked me to lead a joint effort to bring about a workable formula that would transform the Western Wall into – in his own words – ‘one wall for one people,’” Sharansky said.

“After four years of intensive negotiations, we reached a solution that was accepted by all major denominations and was then adopted by the government and embraced by the world’s Jewish communities.

“Today’s decision signifies a retreat from that agreement and will make our work to bring Israel and the Jewish world closer together increasingly more difficult. The Jewish Agency, nevertheless, remains staunchly committed to that work and to the principle of one wall for one people.”

MK Yosel Hasson (Zionist Union), who was scheduled to attend the dinner, said that it "would have been the height of hypocrisy" had the event gone ahead: "A sharp and clear message to the government of world Jewry. Enough is enough."

Following suit, leaders of the Reform Movement in Israel and the US announced Monday that they too were cancelling a meeting with the prime minister that was scheduled to take place on Thursday.

The movement's President, Rabbi Rick Jacobs described the Cabinet's decision as cause for a major crisis between the Israeli government and  Diaspora Jewry. He added that the leaders feel like they have nothing to discuss with Netanyahu at the moment. 

Later on Monday, the Jewish Agency for Israel's Board of Governors formulated a resolution calling on the government to halt what it called the "dangerous and damaging steps."

Referring to the proposed conversion bill which would cement the Chief Rabbinate's monopoly on conversion, the resolution stated that it has the "devastating potential to permanently exclude hundreds of thousands of Israelis from being a part of the Jewish people."

Additionally, deploring the freezing of the agreement reached for an egalitarian prayer section at the Kotel, the resolution stated that these two decision "have a deep potential to divide the Jewish people and to undermine the Zionist vision and dream of Herzl, Ben-Gurion, and Jabotinsky to establish Israel as a national home for the entire Jewish people."

Thus, the נoard in its resolution calls on each צember of the Knesset and all elected public officials "to take all necessary action to ensure that these dangerous and damaging steps are halted."

"We will continue to build a broad coalition of Israelis, together with partners from around the world, who care passionately about keeping our people united and who are committed to the unity of the Jewish people; and We call upon the Government of Israel to understand the gravity of its steps and reverse its course of action accordingly," it concludes.




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