Netanyahu remains committed to changes in Kotel

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday reiterated his commitment to a decision to create a new prayer space for Reform and Conservative Jews at the Kotel and remove the area from the authority of the rabbinate, transferring it to the control of the Prime Minister's Office in a breach of the status quo.

The declaration came after a meeting between Netanyahu and Israel's chief rabbis, who have openly opposed the arrangement, was abruptly called off.

"The prime minister asked the chief rabbis and the Western Wall rabbi to send their comments within two to three weeks, as part of the agreement," an official in Netanyahu's office told AFP.

"At the same time, the prime minister remains committed to the government's decision," the official added.

The Israeli official told AFP that the decision on the new prayer section still needed to be validated by the religious affairs minister, a member of Shas.

Earlier on Sunday, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) toured the Kotel plaza, where he emphasized that changes to the status quo were unacceptable. Even if technical changes were made in the physical arrangement of the Kotel Plaza, the government must not grant the Reform movement recognition, he argued.

“This is not acceptable,” he said, pointing to the southern prayer section, “and I don’t want to use any more harsh rhetoric than that.”

“The postponing of the Prime Minister’s meeting with the Chief Rabbis proves that there is time for dialogue. We’re going to stand firm on the status quo and the authority of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate, and of course on the Western Wall,” he added.


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