The women’s prayer space deal is dead in the wa­ter

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY ANSHEL PF­EF­FER

THE DE­CI­SION by the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment on Jan­uary 31, 2016 to cre­ate a prayer area at the Western Wall for non-Ortho­dox groups was hailed by pro­gres­sive Jews as a “his­toric” event.

The plan to fund a small plaza at the south­ern end of the wall was per­ceived by the Re­form and Mas or ti move­ments, as well as the Women of the Wall, who have been strug­gling for decades against the strictly-Ortho­dox cus­to­di­ans of the Ko­tel, as an un­prece­dented act of recog­ni­tion by the Is­raeli state of non-Ortho­dox Jewry.

On Fe­bru­ary 25, a group of 150 Re­form rab­bis gath­ered for a cel­e­bra­tory prayer at the still makeshift site. Their cel­e­bra­tion, how­ever, proved to be much too early.

Min­is­ters from the Charedi par­ties in the coali­tion had voted against the de­ci­sion but did not seem about to put up much of a fight. The com­pro­mise, whereby their rep­re­sen­ta­tives were to re­tain full con­trol of the main Western Wall plaza, sat­is­fied the politi­cians and rab­bis of Shas and United To­rah Ju­daism, who re­alised that Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu was un­der pres­sure from in­flu­en­tial Jewish lead­ers in the US to make some form of a ges­ture to­wards the Women of the Wall.

None of the sides in­volved, how­ever, fac­tored in the in­creas­ingly bois­ter­ous Charedi me­dia. Al­most im­me­di­ately, the Ortho­dox press be­gan at­tack­ing not only the agree­ment but also their own politi­cians for ac­qui­esc­ing in such sac­ri­lege. At this point, the politi­cians be­gan back­track­ing and it be­came clear to ev­ery­one but the pro­gres­sive rab­bis that the com­pro­mise had been com­pro­mised.

It is sim­ple math­e­mat­ics, of course. No mat­ter how much in­flu­ence Jewish lead­ers may have abroad, they do not have even one MK will­ing to take a po­lit­i­cal risk on their be­half. Shas, UTJ and at least two Jewish Home MKs who are on their side on this is­sue make up 15 mem­bers of the coali­tion. Mr Ne­tanyahu, who is fear­ful they may aban­don him should he be in­dicted in one of the in­ves­ti­ga­tions against him, cer­tainly will not jeop­ar­dise their sup­port.

Iron­i­cally, the Charedi MKs see also the ar­rival of Don­ald Trump as strength­en­ing their hand, since they equate the pro­gres­sive move­ments with the Demo­cratic Party. There is no chance they are go­ing to back down now. The Ko­tel deal is as good as dead.

PHOTO: FLASH 90

WomenoftheWal­lac­tivist­sprotest

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