Government Split Over Kosel Policy

YERUSHALAYIM -

A split has emerged in the government over the ongoing defiance of Jewish tradition at the Kosel by the group called Women of the Wall.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni sent a letter on Wednesday night (Motzoei Yom Tov in Eretz Yisrael) to Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett, who also serves as religious services minister, exhorting him to abide by a recent court ruling permitting “pluralistic” worship at the Kosel.

The previous regulations, which had been upheld by a Supreme Court ruling of 2003, forbade customs not in accordance with Orthodox practice, including the wearing of prayer shawls and tefillin by women.

Bennett has reportedly been drafting new regulations aimed at averting further controversy at the holy site.

In response, Bennett issued a statement saying that Livni’s intervention would impede his efforts to reach a compromise without resorting to drafting any new regulations at all.

“Livni did not speak to me, did not consult with me in order to understand where we’re standing in the delicate efforts to reach a compromise,” Bennett wrote.

Until now, it was understood that Bennett’s new order would establish that the Women of the Wall would not be able to conduct their ceremonies on the Kosel plaza. It is the first time he has referred to a “compromise.”

Livni, in turn, said that Bennett had not contacted her on the matter or updated her about the compromise he’s working on.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, the head of the Knesset Committee on Internal Affairs and Environment, MK Miri Regev (Likud), joined the fray with a letter to Livni asking that she not interfere with Bennett, warning that failure to reach a compromise could lead to “further disturbances and even to bloodshed.”