Plurality of Israelis support Kotel agreement - poll

47% of the general public support the agreement, with 32% opposed, and 21% having no opinion. 

MASSES GATHER at the Western Wall on the night before Yom Kippur. (photo credit: ARIE LEIB ABRAMS/FLASH 90)
MASSES GATHER at the Western Wall on the night before Yom Kippur.
(photo credit: ARIE LEIB ABRAMS/FLASH 90)

A clear plurality of Israelis backs the 2016 Western Wall agreement that would create a state-recognized egalitarian prayer space for non-Orthodox prayer at the southern end of the Western Wall, according to a new poll.

Conducted by Panels Politics for the Institute for Jewish and Zionist Research, the poll shows 47% of the general public support the agreement, 32% oppose it, and 21% have no opinion.

The Western Wall agreement passed by cabinet resolution but was indefinitely suspended by the same government in 2017. It would have seen the current prayer platform for non-Orthodox prayers at the Robinson Arch area at the southern end of the Western Wall designated in law as a prayer space for non-Orthodox worship.

The plan gives representatives from the Reform and Conservative movements a place on the site’s governing committee, and the site itself would be dramatically upgraded.

At the same time, the central Western Wall plaza would be designated in law as a place for Orthodox prayer only.

The egalitarian section of the Western Wall last week with new wooden floorboards. (credit: LIBA CENTER)The egalitarian section of the Western Wall last week with new wooden floorboards. (credit: LIBA CENTER)

According to the new poll, 60% of those surveyed who said they were familiar with the issue said they supported the proposal, although 59% of all respondents said they did not know what the Western Wall agreement was about.

Another finding demonstrated that 46% of the so-called traditional community – a large chunk of the population who identify neither as secular or fully religious – support the deal, with 30% opposed.

Only 9% of religious-Zionist respondents back the deal, with a majority of 68% saying they want it canceled.

The majority of government ministers currently back the 2016 resolution, but Housing and Construction Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who voted against the deal in the cabinet in 2016, still has reservations.

Elkin said earlier this week that he opposes having a government resolution give non-Orthodox figures formal representation on a state body, such as the governing committee of the egalitarian section.

One proposal that has been floated is having the resolution state that the chairman of the Jewish Agency appoints representatives to that committee, who would then appoint the non-Orthodox representatives themselves, thereby avoiding the legal stipulations Elkin opposes.

Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid vowed at his Yesh Atid faction meeting last week that he would fight to ensure that the agreement will be approved by January, while Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman made similar comments on the same day.

The Institute for Jewish and Zionist Research’s survey also addressed the public’s general perspective concerning the Western Wall. It found that 57% of respondents believe it to be a religious site, and 33% said it was a national site.

The secular public sees things differently, with 51% saying it is a national site and only 37% a religious one.

While 34% of respondents said they wanted the Chief Rabbinate to determine whether the Western Wall agreement is implemented, only 6% said they wanted politicians to decide, with 50% saying they want “the Israeli public” to decide.

“The Israeli public believes that the Western Wall plaza belongs to the whole nation and is a religious site,” said Daniel Goldman, founder of the  Institute for Jewish and Zionist Research. “This is the reason why the public supports implementing the plan that will allow every Jew to pray in a way that suits him in this, the holy place, and this is the reason why the public is averse to the politicization of the place and demands that the decision reflect the opinion of the entire people.

“The results of the survey send a direct message to Knesset members and ministers: listen to the will of the people, and find a way to allow all streams of Judaism to pray in their way at the Western Wall plaza.”

The poll was conducted on November 11 and 12 on a sample of 514 Jewish Israeli adults, with a sample error of 4.2%.