Anyone who has taken the time to read my posts on Israel should know that I am a big admirer of our current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. I agree with him on most things and always trust him to protect our country from all who threaten it. But I’m afraid I have to profoundly disagree with the way he has dealt with non-Orthodox Jewish movements in the country. In a recent Facebook post, he scorned members of the Reform and Conservative Jewish movements for marching with Torah scrolls at the Western Wall. They were protesting the Prime Minister’s refusal to give them a place at Judaism’s holiest site where they can pray as they choose, without the restrictions imposed by the country’s Orthodox Jewish monopoly (see: Violent outbreaks at the Kotel between Orthodox and liberals). Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Facebook post said, “The unilateral violation of the status quo at the Western Wall this morning undermines our ongoing efforts to reach a compromise.”
I don’t know what ongoing efforts Bibi is referring to, because ever since the religious parties in his coalition threatened to bring down the government over the proposal to create a non-segregated space at the Kotel for non-Orthodox Jews to pray in, he has sat on his hands and done nothing. Instead, he has allowed the religious establishment to blackmail him just as they have blackmailed other prime ministers throughout Israel’s history.
This isn’t the Bibi I know, because the Bibi I know does whatever he feels is necessary to protect the country. He has no problem standing up to U.S. President Barack Obama or any other world leader when it comes to Israel’s interests. He does what he believes is best for the country, and if the international community doesn’t like it, well, too bad. Yet the Israeli Prime Minister who has no fear in confronting the whole international community to defend Israel’s interests is also the same Prime Minister who won’t stand up to a few overzealous religious leaders who fear losing their power to control how Judaism is practiced in the country.
How does this make sense? Yes, I understand that Bibi risks losing his coalition government if he stands up to the religious bullies that don’t want any sort of compromise that would allow non-Orthodox Jews to worship at the Kotel as they please. But I don’t think this should scare him, because he still has the courage to stand up to Obama, even though the Neville Chamberlain-esque president’s administration has tried to unseat him as Israel’s leader (see: US-funded resources used in 2015 campaign to unseat Netanyahu).
Besides, even if the religious members of the coalition carried out their threat to leave the government and possibly trigger new elections, Bibi would have the opportunity to prove himself as the person who can stand up to the tyranny of Israel’s Orthodox establishment, just as he has proved himself as the leader best suited to stand up to Israel’s enemies. I believe that our prime minister wants to do the right thing and allow non-Orthodox Jews to worship at the Western Wall as they see fit. He just has to find the courage to do it — the same courage he uses to defend Israel on the world stage.