Steinitz Flash 90

Energy Minister and Holy Places Committee member Yuval Steinitz (Likud) will vote today in favor of renovating the Reform plaza at the Western Wall, and rejects criticism against the move.

In an interview with Army Radio, Steinitz said in practice it was about making the "Ezrat Yisrael" available to the disabled and expanding it by one meter only.

"The expansion was established 4-5 years ago. Instead of it being 16.5 meters, it'll be 17.5 meters," Steinitz said. "There's nothing worth inciting against and embarking on here. Even to those who fear Reform influence - there's nothing new or substantive here, just a wave of protest and incitement that erupted in certain circles without any factual basis."

The Western Wall plan would have altered the Western Wall Plaza layout and granted tacit recognition of the Reform Movement at the holy site. The plan was suspended last year before being officially canceled in January and has become a major point of contention between Diaspora Jewry and Israel.

According to Steinitz, the government made a "terrible mistake" when it canceled the Western Wall plan last year. "I said then that this is just warrantless hatred and that we with our own hands in a manner anti-Jewish and contrary to Zionist values tell three-million Jews in the United States identified with Reform and Conservative - you don't belong here and we don't consider your position.

"I was the only minister who argued this matter with the Prime Minister and the ministers, and I said that this is a terrible mistake. After all, Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people, so how can you tell millions of Jews in the United States and Canada, 'We don't consider you' or 'Go build a new wall in the US and leave us alone', as a Knesset member from Shas said?

"It's a statement that contains elements of incitement and an anti-Zionist element. It undermines our ability to bring their share as new immigrants to the Land of Israel," said the Energy Minister.