Netanyahu Meets U.S. Jewish Leaders Amid Western Wall, Conversion Crisis

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Netanyahu addressing an audience in Bogota, Colombia, September 13, 2017
Netanyahu addressing an audience in Bogota, Colombia, September 13, 2017Credit: JAIME SALDARRIAGA/REUTERS

NEW YORK - Prime Minister Netanyahu will begin his visit to the United States on Sunday evening by meeting with a group of Jewish-American leaders in New York. An Israeli official told Haaretz that the Prime Minister will meet with the heads of four organizations - the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, The American Jewish Committee (AJC), the Jewish Federations of North America and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC.) 

The meeting will focus on Israel's lobbying efforts to convince the Trump administration to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal; the ceasefire in Syria and Israel's reservations towards it; the Israeli-Palestinian peace process; and issues of importance to the American Jewish community, such as the Israeli government's withdrawal from the Western Wall agreement and its support for legislation that would limit non-Orthodox conversions in Israel.

The Israeli government decided to renege on the agreement to establish an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall three months ago, leading Rabbis from the Jewish American community sent a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu expressing their "sense of betrayal."

American Reform and Conservative Jewish movement leaders are also concerned about possible changes in Israel’s conversion law that could provide the Orthodox-run Chief Rabbinate with a monopoly over all conversions performed in the country, and recent statements from leaders disparaging Reform Jews.

Netanyahu will meet with U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday at 1 PM local time, and later on Monday will hold meetings with the leaders of Japan, Panama and Rwanda. On Tuesday, Netanyahu is to attend Trump's speech at the United Nations, before giving his own speech before the General Assembly at 1:30 PM local time (8:30 PM in Israel). Netanyahu will head back to Israel on Tuesday evening.

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