Netanyahu speaks at the Conference of Presidents
Netanyahu speaks at the Conference of PresidentsYonatan Sindel/Flash 90

Opposition to the planned reforms at the Kotel Plaza in the Old City of Jerusalem is growing, with Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) and MK Bezalel Smotrich (Jewish Home) aligning with haredi opponents of the plan.

On Friday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called on Israel’s Chief Rabbis to meet with him and Rabbi of the Kotel, Shmuel Rabinowitz, this Sunday in an attempt to assuage fears over growing government recognition of the Reform movement. 

Late Saturday night, however, the meeting was abruptly cancelled, with no formal explanation given.

Behind the scenes, however, the Chief Rabbis, David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef, pulled out all the stops to coalesce opposition to the Kotel reform plan.

The Chief Rabbis met Saturday night ahead of the planned meeting with Netanyahu, along with Rabbi Rabinowitz and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to draw up an alternative plan for the Kotel Plaza, BeHadrei Haredim reported. The four notified the Prime Minister’s office of their meeting and intentions to offer their own plan for the Kotel area.

National Religious MKs Ariel and Smotrich were also enlisted in the effort, notifying the government of a planned tour of the Kotel Plaza with former MK Eli Yishai during the government’s opening meeting this morning.

In light of the Saturday night meeting and the strengthening opposition from across the religious spectrum, Netanyahu cancelled talks with the Chief Rabbis. The planned Kotel reforms are expected to be shelved until a compromise can be arranged to satisfy Netanyahu’s haredi coalition partners.