US Jews to PM: Clarify that egalitarian section of Kotel being expanded

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened with Jewish leaders ahead of his meeting with President Trump to discuss core issues.

PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu at the Kotel (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu at the Kotel
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Representatives of key American Jewish organizations told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he should clarify to US Jewry what is being done to create an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall.
The request at a meeting on Sunday comes as some segments of American Jewry were outraged by the government’s decision to freeze a deal that not only would have created the prayer area south of the Mughrabi Gate at the Western Wall, but would also have given the pluralistic movements a formal say in its administration of the site, something they viewed as tacit recognition – and which the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties would not tolerate.
Netanyahu has pledged to continue building the egalitarian space as per the original Western Wall compromise plan approved in 2016, even as the government in the summer – under pressure from the haredi parties – did an about-face regarding allowing the pluralistic movement’s administration of the site and froze that plan.
Netanyahu feels he has unfairly been castigated by the pluralistic movements for not allowing an egalitarian prayer space, even though they overlooked his pledge that while the compromise itself will be shelved, work on creating a new space will move forward and the already existing space at Robinson’s Arch will remain intact.
This explains that the Prime Minister’s Office readout of the meeting stressed that the Jewish leaders “requested that the prime minister clarify to American Jewry the actions to expand the egalitarian prayer space.”
Among those at the meeting were AIPAC leaders Howard Kohr and Lillian Pincus, the executive director of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and heads of the Jewish Federations of North America, and the American Jewish Committee. World Jewish Congress head Ronald Lauder was seen going into Netanyahu’s hotel earlier in the day for a meeting with Netanyahu.
Participants of the meeting were unwilling to discuss its content in detail but those who agreed to comment conveyed that it was a positive one.
Jason Isaacson, the American Jewish Committee’s associate executive director for policy told The Jerusalem Post on Monday: “We certainly covered a wide range of the topics that are of great concern and interest to the American Jewish community, to Israel and the US. These were a range of strategic, political, communal and other issues and it was a detailed and very constructive meeting and I think all sides were left feeling that important messages had been conveyed and responded to in full.”
Netanyahu speaks at a cabinet meeting in the Western Wall (credit: GPO)
“It was a very positive meeting,” he stressed.
The Jewish Federations of North America sent the Post a short statement with a similar message: “Yesterday JFNA leadership, along with a group of Jewish community leaders, met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to New York. It was a good meeting and included a frank discussion of many of the issues most important to Israel and Jews in the Diaspora.”
According to the Prime Minister’s Office, in addition to talking about the Western Wall issue, the Jewish leaders also discussed the nuclear agreement with Iran, Iran’s efforts to establish a permanent presence in Syria, and the situation with Hamas.
Netanyahu’s office characterized the atmosphere of the meeting as “excellent,” and said the AIPAC leaders invited Netanyahu to take part in next year’s annual policy conference – a rather odd announcement, considering that the prime minister is almost always asked to make an address.
AIPAC declined to comment.