Divisions have surfaced between pro-Israeli groups and the Tel Aviv regime after Premier Benjamin Netanyahu submitted to pressure by his ultra-Orthodox allies in the cabinet and suspended a deal allowing men and women to pray together in front of the so-called Western Wall in Jerusalem al-Quds’ Old City.
In January 2016, Netanyahu agreed to the mixed-gender worship space, which was meant to resolve a decades-long dispute over equal rights for women praying at the Western Wall. Prayer areas are segregated at the site, with the women’s section far smaller than the men’s.
The compromise followed three years of negotiations between the Israeli authorities on the one side and liberal Israeli and pro-Israeli groups on the other.
However, ultra-Orthodox parties in Netanyahu’s coalition administration and the religious authorities that manage the site protested the agreement.
After months of stalling, the Israeli cabinet announced late last month that it was canceling the agreement and thus ordered two ministers to begin looking at a new arrangement.
Ultra-Orthodox parties hailed the Western Wall decision, but liberal groups said they would take the issue to court.
Lately, the president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) lobbying group travelled to the occupied territories for an emergency meeting with the Israeli premier.
Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters gathered outside Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem al-Quds on Saturday to vent their anger at the move.
Israeli protesters gather outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem al-Quds on July 1, 2017, to demonstrate against the suspension of a deal to allow women and men to pray together at the so-called Western Wall. (Photo by AFP)
The board of governors of the Jewish Agency, an NGO that works to connect Israel with Jews around the world, canceled a scheduled dinner with Netanyahu.
It warned that the “dangerous and damaging steps” had a “deep potential to divide” Israelis, urging Tel Aviv “to understand the gravity of its steps and reverse its course of action accordingly.”
Sallai Meridor, former chairman of the Jewish Agency, who was among demonstrators at Saturday’s event, said, “Prime Minister, you must know that the wholeness of the people is more important than the wholeness of the coalition.”
Additionally, Women of the Wall, a liberal group that campaigns for the right of women to perform the same prayer rituals, accused Netanyahu of “kow-towing to a handful of religious extremists.”
According to a recent poll commissioned by Hiddush, an advocacy group for religious freedom, two-thirds of Israelis opposed the suspension of the Western Wall plan