El Matan Synagogue
El Matan SynagogueIsrael news photo: (file)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has swung to the side of nationalists and ordered Defense Minister Ehud Barak to halt plans to carry out a court order to seal the El-Matan synagogue in Samaria. El-Matan is a mixed secular and religious community.

The Prime Minister ordered that an alternative solution be found after the High Court approved a left-wing petition that the synagogue be destroyed, despite a United Nations declaration that holy places must not be harmed.

The issue of the synagogue in Maaleh Shomron, part of the Karnei and Ginot Shomron complex and less than 20 minutes from the metropolitan Tel Aviv suburb of Kfar Saba, has become a cause célèbre for nationalists because the government simultaneously has allowed a nearby mosque to be built illegally.

El Matan resident Esther Kriz told IDF Army Radio Tuesday that leftists claim the synagogue “interferes with the future development of Arab villages that are not even in the vicinity.” The synagogue was built with private and government funding.

The last-minute decision by Prime Minister Netanyahu pleased Likud Knesset Member Danny Danon, who said that “sealing a synagogue is not a Zionist or Jewish” act. The order from the prime minister came as residents already had placed large boulders and barbed wire on the road to the synagogue in an effort in stop the expected arrival of security forces to carry out the court order.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s intervention, which came at an Inner Cabinet meeting Tuesday evening, was part of a two-step move in favor of nationalists. He said that contrary to media speculation, the session with the senior ministers did not discuss the American and Palestinian Authority demand that Israel extend the 10-month building freeze that expired 10 days ago.