Woman of the Wall
Woman of the Wall Hadas Parush/Flash 90

The State informed the Supreme Court that it will not hold another debate on whether to implement the Western Wall outline, contending that the strong sensitivities the issue touches on justify the government's decision to freeze the plan.

The State also told the court that the decision to adopt the Western Wall plan was not legally binding, and the State was therefore not obligated to implement it.

The Supreme Court had demanded that the State provide a reason why it has not executed the decision to enlarge the egalitarian prayer plaza at the Western Wall as was agreed upon in 2016. In a hearing last week regarding an appeal by eight non-Orthodox organizations, Chief Justice Miriam Naor strongly criticized the government and recommended that the State rethink its decision to shelve the plan.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Netanyahu told reporters that the decision to freeze the Western Wall plan was made after it became clear that the Reform Movement was attempting to use the plan for the holy site as a means for achieving de facto state recognition. Netanyahu pointed to a clause in the Western Wall outline plan which provides for logistical coordination with the Reform Movement, which he said could be construed as recognition – a violation of the status quo on religion and state.

Netanyahu stressed that the plan's provisions were not entirely canceled - Robinson's Arch will be renovated and expanded as scheduled. The government simply froze the part of the plan that would have given the Reform and Conservative movements control over the site, providing a legal precedent for these movements to claim government recognition in future appeals to the Supreme Court.

The Reform and Conservative movements, which combined represent only several thousand members in the State of Israel, less than 3% of the Jewish population, have long lobbied for state recognition and funding, as well as authority to perform state-recognized conversions and marriages in Israel. The mixed gender space set aside for those who wish to pray in that environment has sat largely empty since its construction four years ago, while the raucous Women of the Wall continue to provoke thousands of traditional worshipers and disrupt prayers in the separate gender main plaza each month.

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