Report: Reform, Conservative Movements Warn Netanyahu Not to Back Out of Western Wall Deal

Leaders reportedly say that if Netanyahu backs down from compromise, he will cause an unprecedented crisis with Diaspora Jewry.

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Haaretz
The area where a plaza for mixed-gender prayer will be placed at the Western Wall, in Jerusalem's Old City, February 1, 2016.
The area where a plaza for mixed-gender prayer will be placed at the Western Wall, in Jerusalem's Old City, February 1, 2016. Credit: AP
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Haaretz

The Reform and Conservative Jewish movements have upped the ante with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the prospect of the government backing down from a compromise deal over the Western Wall, Channel 2 reported on Tuesday.

According to the report, the two movements in the United States and Israel recently sent a message to Netanyahu threatening that any step backward from the Western Wall deal would lead to an unprecedented crisis with Diaspora Jewry. They are also demanding that the prime minister condemn verbal attacks by ultra-Orthodox ministers against Reform Jews, the report said, citing unnamed sources.

The Western Wall compromise would create a designated space along the southern end of the wall, known as the Kotel, for non-Orthodox Jews to pray in public.

On Monday, Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz backtracked from his previous support of the compromise. The chief rabbis, who promised to submit changes, are dilly-dallying, and there is no one else to turn to like they had in past, such as the late Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef.

Another issue is ritual baths, known as mikvehs. The ritual bath bill seeks to circumvent a High Court ruling that, as public spaces, the Orthodox rabbinate has to provide access to non-Orthodox Jews who want to conduct conversions. The Reform and Conservative leaders are proposing the state build private mikvehs to immerse converts in place of using the ones run by religious councils, according to Channel 2.

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