Orthodox politicians celebrate Bennett decision to stop Kotel deal

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said he did not advance the Kotel plan due to opposition to it within the Yamina faction.

 PRIME MINISTER Naftali Bennett holds a press conference at the Prime Minister’s office earlier this year. (photo credit: NOAM REVKIN FENTON/FLASH90)
PRIME MINISTER Naftali Bennett holds a press conference at the Prime Minister’s office earlier this year.
(photo credit: NOAM REVKIN FENTON/FLASH90)

Politicians from Orthodox parties expressed satisfaction on Sunday at Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s telling The Jerusalem Post that his government will not be able to implement the plan to formally establish an egalitarian section at the Western Wall.

Bennett said the reason he would not advance the plan was that there was opposition to it in Yamina and New Hope, referring to New Hope minister Ze'ev Elkin and Yamina faction head Nir Orbach.

Orbach said the Kotel plan was too controversial for a government that is focusing on matters of consensus.

"Such issues must be deliberated and decided in the right time and place, according to Jewish law," Orbach said. "I believe the coalition has more urgent issues that must top its agenda, so I welcome the prime minister's decision."

Shas faction chairman Michael Malkieli warned Bennett, who initially advanced the plan, that if he changed his mind again, he would face millions of protesters.

“If I thought until now that the Kotel framework would be advanced, now I am less sure,” he said sarcastically. “When Bennett promises something, you can be sure he will do the opposite. I call on Bennett to keep his word this time.”

United Torah Judaism leader Moshe Gafni praised Bennett’s decision in an interview with Yaki Adamker on the haredi ultra-Orthodox) radio station Kol Barama.

“Anything that will stop the galloping to harm every aspect of Judaism makes me happy,” Gafni said when asked about Bennett said. “I am a partner in efforts to stop these steps and I hope they will continue to be stopped. We will continue our war that our rabbis told us to fight.”

Women of the Wall read the Torah while praying in the women's section of the Kotel plaza (credit: ILANIT CHERNICK)Women of the Wall read the Torah while praying in the women's section of the Kotel plaza (credit: ILANIT CHERNICK)

Rabbi Pesach Lerner, who chairs the World Zionist Organization’s Orthodox Eretz Hakodesh Party, said Bennett’s decision made sense statistically.

“The majority of Diaspora Jews from around the world who care about Israel, who pray daily for her safety and security, who visit Israel, who send their kids to study in Israel, who invest in Israel, who make up the majority of Jews who make Aliyah to Israel , and yes, who pray at the kotel - want the current Kotel traditions to continue,” Lerner said. “Every Jew is invited to come to the Kotel, to pray at the Kotel. This majority of Jews only asks that everyone respects the traditions of the Kotel. We would hope that the Israeli government would respect their wishes.”

Religious Zionist Party MK Itamar Ben-Gvir joined thousands of students in Sunday’s “March of the Yeshivot” supporting the Chief Rabbinate. They called on Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana to stop reforms on Kashrut, conversion and the Western Wall.

They walked from the entrance to Jerusalem to the Knesset and demonstrated outside the Prime Minister’s Office during the cabinet meeting.

“This government wants to destroy the Jewish character of the State of Israel, harm the Chief Rabbinate and divide the nation,” Ben-Gvir said. “I call on Matan Kahana to reverse his actions.”

United Torah Judaism MK Yitzhak Pindrus mocked Bennett’s statement.

“I don’t believe a word that comes out of his mouth, so I don’t have anything to say about that,” Pindrus said. “I’m still too busy with his book on how to defeat the coronavirus.”