Kotel deal: Lapid, Liberman vow to save egalitarian prayer section

PM Bennett sent 90,000 letters opposing egalitarian prayer at Western Wall.

 Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman at the cabinet meeting, November 7, 2021.  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman at the cabinet meeting, November 7, 2021.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

In a rare disagreement between Prime Minister Naftali Bennnett and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid, the Yesh Atid leader vowed to fight his political partner to ensure that the Western Wall agreement will be implemented.

Bennett told The Jerusalem Post in an interview over the weekend that his government would not be able to implement the plan to formally establish an egalitarian section at the Western Wall, due to opposition within his Yamina faction and in New Hope. Lapid had promised that the plan would be implemented before its author, attorney-general Avichai Mandelblit, left office, which happened on Monday.

“We will fight for the Kotel framework until it passes,” Lapid told the Post at Yesh Atid’s faction meeting. “We are working on it now, and we will continue to work on persuading everyone in the coalition. There have been incidents in the past that people mocked our ability to accomplish our goals, and most of the time they were proven wrong. I will not give up on the Kotel framework, which is the right thing to do to unite the entire Jewish people behind its values.”

Similarly, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman told his Yisrael Beytenu faction that he would take steps to ensure the government implements the plan.

“It’s sad that Yamina MKs persuaded Bennett to abandon the Western Wall deal after they supported the framework in the past,” he said. “I hope to succeed at persuading New Hope and Yamina to agree to the current framework.”

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman at the conference for the Institute of Certified Public Accountants. (credit: NIV KANTOR)Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman at the conference for the Institute of Certified Public Accountants. (credit: NIV KANTOR)

The Western Wall agreement would have vastly upgraded the current egalitarian section and made it a state-recognized holy site, as well as giving representatives of the non-Orthodox movements a say in the site’s governing body. It would reserve the current Kotel plaza for traditional Orthodox prayer.

The Jewish Agency reacted for the first time to Bennett’s abandonment of the Kotel deal, in a statement released on Tuesday by spokeswoman Noa Amouyal.

“The Jewish Agency for Israel, which was asked to lead the negotiations in 2016 to establish the egalitarian section of the Western Wall, calls on all sides to expeditiously reach a viable solution to this matter,” Amouyal said. “This is of utmost importance to global Jewry. The Jewish Agency will continue to closely monitor developments in this regard respecting all the concerned parties.”

Over the last 10 days, the Am Echad organization sent Bennett almost 90,000 letters from people in the Diaspora, expressing opposition to the Kotel compromise. Am Echad is an organization dedicated to promoting connection between Israel and Diaspora on the basis of joint Jewish identity.

"The Jewish Agency for Israel, which was asked to lead the negotiations in 2016 to establish the egalitarian section of the Western Wall, calls on all sides to expeditiously reach a viable solution to this matter," Amouyal said. "This is of utmost importance to global Jewry. The Jewish Agency will continue to closely monitor developments in this regard respecting all the concerned parties."

Over the last 10 days, the Am Echad organization sent Bennett almost 90,000 letters from people in the Diaspora, expressing opposition to the Kotel compromise. Am Echad is an organization dedicated to promoting the connection between Israel and the Diaspora on the basis of joint Jewish identity.