Report: Likud offers to nix mixed-gender prayer area at Kotel

Likud urging Noam party to drop out of race in exchange for closing mixed-gender prayer space at Western Wall, dropping conversion reform.

Tags: Western Wall
Sam Sokol, JTA ,

Reform Jews praying in Jerusalem (illustrative)
Reform Jews praying in Jerusalem (illustrative)
Yossi Zeliger/FLASH90

A Likud lawmaker close to Prime Minister Binymain Netanyahu has reportedly offered to prevent mixed-gender, egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall in exchange for a small right-wing faction dropping out ahead of this month’s Knesset election.

The move would anger non-Orthodox Jewish leaders in the Diaspora, for whom the right to pray at the wall as they see fit is a major bone of contention with Israel.

According to Israeli news site Ynet, MK Miki Zohar made the promise during talks with the Noam Party, a small religious Zionist faction primarily known in Israel for its staunchly social conservative views.

The party has been polling under one percent, and is not expected to pass the 3.25% threshold needed to enter the Knesset.

Netanyahu and the Likud have been pushing members of the national camp not to support smaller parties in order not to “waste” votes.

According to the report, Zohar also offered to enact more stringent conversion policies. While Zohar told the Israeli news outlet that Netanyahu had approved of his outreach, a Likud spokesperson said that “there will be no change in conversion laws, and nobody will cancel the egalitarian prayer area at the Western Wall.”

In 2017, the government pulled out of a 2016 agreement to expand the holy site’s southern section, used for egalitarian prayer, and appoint an interdenominational commission to oversee it. The compromise was a result of three years of negotiations among the Jewish Agency for Israel, non-Orthodox leaders, the Israeli government and the Western Wall’s haredi Orthodox management.