Thursday night, the Supreme Court issued its final ruling, voting narrowly (4-3) to allow the government to destroy the abandoned synagogues in Gush Katif and northern Shomron. The court had been asked to demand that the government reconsider its earlier decisions to raze the holy structures. The decision appeared to pave the way for their destruction on Friday.
However, Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz and President Moshe Katzav - one or both of them as per below - turned to Prime Minister Sharon and asked for yet another Cabinet vote on the matter. Sharon agreed, and the vote will take place on Sunday. The synagogues will not be blown up today as was originally scheduled.
It was first reported that Mofaz had made the request for another cabinet vote, but Maariv-NRG later reported that it was actually President Katzav, who had been requested by the influential Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef to ask for the last-minute stay.
In any event, the Cabinet will convene for its third vote on the issue on Sunday morning. Despite the rabbinical rulings and pleas, the narrow Supreme Court decision, the public pressure, and the international ramifications, most Labor Party ministers are expected to continue to support the destruction. It is not yet clear how the Likud ministers will vote.
If the Cabinet decides once again to destroy the holy structures, this might delay the IDF's official withdrawal from Gaza.
Harsh criticism of the Supreme Court was quick to follow yesterday's ruling - while the government, whose decision the Court merely ratified, escaped much of the wrath.
National Religious Party head MK Zevulun Orlev said, "A religious Jew has no reason to turn to the Supreme Court. No Christian or Moslem judge in the world would have allowed the destruction of a house of worship."
A statement by the Council for Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza (Yesha) emphasized the international ramifications of the court's decision: "We are shocked. The Supreme Court, which is losing more and more its authority and ethical fairness in the eyes of all Jews, will not be able to cleanse its hands in light of the likely possibility that Jewish holy sites around the world will be harmed as a direct result of its ruling. It is regretful that time after time, the Court shows sensitivity in matters concerning non-Jews, but shuts itself off even on the most essential Jewish matters."
MK Uri Ariel (National Union): "The Supreme Court's decision is a disgrace to Israeli law. This is a clearly Halakhic [Jewish legal] matter, and the Supreme Court has no authority to question it. The Court has given a green light to the destruction of synagogues in the Diaspora."
Rabbi Chanan Porat, a former Knesset Member and a leader of the settlement movement, has been working tirelessly behind the scenes to have the decree annulled. Contacted by Arutz-7 this morning, he said, "I'm in the middle of exactly those efforts right now, so it's a bit hard for me to speak. But I can say that just as Mofaz changed his mind, we feel that we can get others, both in Likud and Labor, to do the same."
Rabbi Porat explained that Mofaz was greatly affected by the moving prayer service at the N'vei Dekalim synagogue yesterday, at the end of which, the participants refused to leave until they were assured of a meeting with Mofaz on this issue.
Rabbi Porat's assistant explained, "It was getting late and dark - there is no electricity there, of course - and the army was getting a little edgy, but about 30 of us refused to leave. Finally, we received word that Mofaz would meet with us. In the end, there was no meeting, but we heard from MK Tzvi Hendel that Mofaz had called him and said that he is now against the destruction of the synagogues."
Working closely with Rabbi Porat on this issue has been MK Eli Yishai of the Shas party, whose efforts were described by the assistant as being totally non-political and "just for the cause."