The Kotel Agreement – Israel’s loss of reliability

One critical issue has been conspicuously absent from discussions concerning PM Bennett’s announcement regarding non-implementation of the Kotel agreement – the obligation of governments to keep their promises. The current argument is primarily over whether or not the deal is justified under Jewish law and tradition. But that ship has already sailed. All sides raised the same arguments during negotiations. When the deal was reached, the government was bound to implement it.  

This is of a piece with other instances when the government has broken its word. Numerous times the government has asked the Supreme Court to extend the deadline for implementation of rules regarding Haredi conscription, each time promising that this would be the last such extension. Similarly, contrary to their original agreement, the government demanded that energy companies increase their payments to Israel when substantial natural gas deposits were found. These companies had taken huge financial risks with no guarantee of success.  Israel decided to cash in once the search was successful, though it is unthinkable that Israel would have helped to defray the financial losses if the companies had failed. 

Each time a government violates a negotiated agreement it loses trust in the eyes of its own citizens as well as Jews and other parties around the world. Voters who selected Bennett and Lapid on the basis of their promises to break the Haredi shackles on the previous government may look elsewhere for more trustworthy leaders in the next election. Diaspora Jews have been told that Israel is the state of the Jewish people around the world. How many of them will lose their enthusiasm for helping a country that can no longer be relied upon to keep its end of the bargain? Countries and commercial entities may make much more onerous demands when negotiating with Israel in order to limit their potential loss if Israel backs out of an agreement. 

The current government may have gained some temporary benefit in dealing with the religious community, but at a much greater cost due to losses in prestige and reliability. 

About the Author
The author, a retired American diplomat now living in Israel, served in Europe, Africa, South America, Iraq, Washington, DC, and seven years at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv. He was Assistant US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism under the Trump administration. He is a Senior Fellow at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (Reichman University).
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