Livni, Bennett spar over Kotel praying regulations

Livni tells Bennett not to issue regulations for Western Wall; Bennett: Livni’s comments damaged chance of compromise.

Tzipi Livni at the Western Wall 370 (photo credit: Courtesy SODAVIDEO/The Tzipi Livni Party)
Tzipi Livni at the Western Wall 370
(photo credit: Courtesy SODAVIDEO/The Tzipi Livni Party)
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni shot off a letter on Wednesday night to Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett, who also serves as religious services minister, warning him that the regulations he is drafting for accepted practice at the Western Wall should not contravene a recent ruling of the Jerusalem District Court, permitting pluralistic Jewish practices at the site.
Bennett has been looking into revising the current regulations following a court decision in April that reinterpreted existing laws and allowed women who take part in the Women of the Wall services to pray according to their own customs without fear of being arrested.
Livni wrote to Bennett saying that the court ruling allowing women to pray according to their own customs was acceptable to her in its “pluralistic and egalitarian interpretation” of the law.
The previous regulations, which had been upheld by a Supreme Court ruling of 2003 and directives issued by the Justice Ministry in 2005, forbade customs not in accordance with Orthodox practice, including the wearing of prayer shawls and tefillin, reading from the Torah and other ceremonies usually performed by men.
“I believe the time is ripe, from a legal and socio-cultural point of view, to implement tolerant and pluralistic policies at the Western Wall,” Livni wrote in her letter.
“Women must be allowed to pray according to their own way and faith, especially when they are doing so in the current women’s section,” Livni added.
In response, Bennett accused Livni of carrying out a purpose- built media exercise since he had not received the letter due to the Shavuot holiday.
Writing on his Facebook page, he said that her intervention would damage his efforts at reaching a compromise with both sides which, he said, he was attempting in order not to have to draft any new regulations at all.
“Livni did not speak to me, did not consult with me in order to understand where we’re standing in the delicate efforts to reach a compromise,” Bennett wrote.
“Like an elephant in a china shop, she has greatly damaged the chances of reaching a compromise,” he said.
Livni retorted that Bennett had not contacted her on the matter and not updated her about the compromise “that he claims he is conducting on the issue of the Women of the Wall, so he can only blame himself.”
The Women of the Wall thanked Livni for her stance, via a statement to the media.