Bennett: Israel's Relationship With U.S. Jews in 'Serious Condition' Over Broken Western Wall Promise

Calling American Jewry 'our brothers,' Israeli education minister says U.S. Jewish leaders feel like they received a 'slap in the face' over the scrapped plan for a mixed prayer space

Jewish men participate in the priestly blessing at the Western Wall during Passover in Jerusalem's Old City, April 13, 2017.
Ariel Schalit/AP

Education Minister Naftali Bennett said relations between American Jewry and Israel are in "serious condition," after two government decisions that infuriated many Jewish leaders in the United States.

The Israeli government decided Sunday to freeze the Western Wall egalitarian prayer space agreement and advance a law limiting the recognition of conversions to Judaism.

>> Explained: Why are Jews fighting with each other over the Western Wall?

Both decision were taken in response to pressure from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox coalition partners.

Bennett made his comments in a series of tweets he wrote after meeting with leaders of the American Jewish community on Tuesday morning. Many of them are in Jerusalem this week to attend the Jewish Agency Board of Governors meeting.

U.S. Jewish leaders told Bennett they felt they received a "slap in the face" from the Israeli government and are no longer wanted here, he tweeted. 

"This is not the reality, of course, but it is their feeling," said Bennett. "American Jews are our brothers. Mistakes were made along with a lot of disinformation. The plan is to listen and [conduct a] dialogue and dissipate the rumors."

A special emergency meeting of a Knesset caucus devoted to strengthening Israel’s ties with Diaspora Jewry will take place Tuesday morning to address the crisis.

The Jewish Agency's Board of Governors issued a special resolution on Monday urging Israel to reverse the two controversial decisions, but stopped short of any concrete action. “We call upon the government of Israel to understand the gravity of its steps and reverse its course of action accordingly,” it said.

The resolution said decisions have "deep potential to divide the Jewish people and to undermine the Zionist vision."