Israel Supreme Court warns government over Western Wall

Netanyahu, who has been under pressure from ultra-Orthodox political parties, is yet to implement agreed scheme


Israel's Supreme Court has warned it could push the government to reach a deal allowing men and women to pray together at the Western Wall.

It told the government on Thursday that it should reconsider its decision to halt an agreed plan to allow mixed worship at a section of the wall.

During a hearing involving the status of non-Orthodox Jews at one of Judaism’s holiest sites, Miriam Naor, the Supreme Court president, asked the attorney representing the state: "What happened here?

“There was a deal, people worked on it, and then the government comes and says it doesn't exist. This raises some questions." 

She added an agreement that is "frozen, can also be thawed." 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been under pressure from ultra-Orthodox political parties not to allow it, is yet to implement the scheme.

The support of ultra-Orthodox parties is vital for Mr Netanyahu’s parliamentary majority.

Anat Hoffman, chairwoman of Women of the Wall, said she was encouraged that the court look to be defending the agreement, which was approved in 2016 following three years of negotiations.

She said: “Once again, we see the Supreme Court is acting as the responsible adult, and sometimes responsible adults have to force us to do things that are good for us that we’re afraid to do.”

Hila Perl, spokeswoman for the group that is petitioning the court to force the prime minister to honour the agreement said she expects it to set a deadline of no more than 60 days for the government to stick to its plan, or defend its refusal in court.

The Israel Religious Action Centre said Supreme Court had sent the government a clear message.

"The court spoke loud and clear stating that the current state of affairs in the Kotel is discriminatory and can’t continue.

"The court asked the government to reconsider the freeze of the Kotel plan. This is the opportunity for PM Netanyahu to lead.”

The state was given until September 14 to satisfy the courts two Questions. Would the government be willing to revisit its decision to suspend the Western Wall agreement?  And if not, do the state’s attorneys believe the Supreme Court has the authority to impose the agreement on the government?

Petitioners will then have until September 28 to make a comment on the state’s answers.

The wall is currently separated into prayer sections for women and men in line with ultra-Orthodox tradition.

At the moment women are not allowed to lead prayers or carry Torah scrolls.

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