Haredi parties prepare for showdown over Western Wall plan

The haredi parties are extremely concerned that the High Court will intervene on the side of those demanding a state-recognized egalitarian section.

June 23, 2017 02:02
2 minute read.
Robinson's Arch Western Wall

The Robinson's Arch area of the Western Wall. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

United Torah Judaism and Shas will try to repeal the government resolution to create a state-recognized egalitarian section at the Western Wall at Sunday’s cabinet meeting.

Sources within UTJ confirmed that the party was drawing up a new cabinet resolution to annul the original decision.

The steps come as the deadline set by the High Court of Justice for the state to respond to petitions against the government by the progressive Jewish movements, Reform and Conservative Judaism, approaches on Monday.

The haredi parties are extremely concerned that the High Court will intervene on the side of those demanding a state-recognized egalitarian section, and is therefore seeking to preemptively circumvent such a situation.

The original resolution determined that a large, state-recognized egalitarian section would be created at the southern end of the Western Wall, would be accessible from the main Western Wall complex and would be run by a board including progressive Jewish representatives and those of the Women of the Wall organization.

Implementation of the agreement was however frozen almost immediately, after the ultra-Orthodox parties, which allowed the deal to be approved, retreated from this position in the face of severe criticism from the haredi online media and the chief rabbis.

Well-placed sources with knowledge of the efforts to implement the plan acknowledged on Thursday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is opposed to repealing the agreement, but is nonetheless trying to appease his haredi coalition partners.

It is possible that the Netanyahu will agree to a resolution formally suspending implementation of the agreement, although leaders of the progressive Jewish denominations say they will oppose any formulation that permanently scuttles the agreement.

The Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to a request for comment as to whether Netanyahu will allow a resolution repealing or suspending the Western Wall agreement to be passed.

Separately, a coalition crisis with UTJ and Shas over state-mandated construction work on Shabbat was avoided, after representatives of the haredi parties and the relevant government ministries came to new agreements over the issue on Thursday.

In a meeting between Netanyahu, Transportation Minister Israel Katz, Labor and Welfare Minister Haim Katz, Interior Minister and Shas chairman Arye Deri, Health Minister and UTJ chairman Ya’acov Litzman and senior UTJ MK Moshe Gafni at the Prime Minister’s Office, it was agreed that greater efforts would be made to prevent maintenance and construction work on state infrastructure from being carried out on the Sabbath.

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