The cancelation of the Western Wall egalitarian prayer area plan and the Settlement Regulation Law have been subject to stormy public debate, and rightly so. The two issues have reached the High Court's desk, and it is the High Court that would have to determine what to do with them. Several days ago, the High Court of Justice issued a temporary injunction against the Regulation Law. The Movement for Governance and Democracy condemned the injunction. A justified condemnation. Except this time, for a change, it is not the court's fault. It's the government's fault.
The cancelation of the Western Wall plan and the Regulation Law have become landmarks. It may have been possible to allow a limited Regulation Law, inside the major settlement blocs, in areas Israel is expected to keep even under peace deals offered by the left wing. A similar law was passed by the government in the Turkish part of Cyprus and was even approved by the European Court of Human Rights. But if the law can apply to any hill in Judea and Samaria, it becomes a law that causes damage to Israel. This isn't a left-wing position. This is the position taken, in the early stages, by Benjamin Netanyahu and Naftali Bennett. But capitulation to the demands of the radical right wing has led to this unfortunate legislation.
It's the same story with the cancelation of the Western Wall egalitarian prayer area plan. There is no argument between the Left and the Right, or between the judiciary and the executive. The Western Wall plan was proposed and regulated and approved by the current government, with the mediation of Natan Sharansky, the chairman of the Jewish Agency. But the ultra-Orthodox know Netanyahu can be easily pressured. He acquiesced and caused one of the most serious crises between Israel and American Jewry. He shouldn't have capitulated to begin with, because the ultra-Orthodox have no alternatives. They wouldn't have quit the coalition. Their threat was an idle one.
So why did Netanyahu capitulate on both issues? Why did he lend a hand to decisions that hurt our national interests? Well, it happened because Netanyahu knew both decisions would reach the High Court. And, after all, the High Court's job is to pull the chestnuts out of the fire. But it's not a given the High Court would dance to Netanyahu's tune. It's not a given the Regulation Law would be struck down, despite having been frozen with an injunction, and it's not a given the High Court would overturn the decision to freeze the Western Wall plan. After all, the High Court is expected to act with restraint.
Herein lies the problem. The right-wing coalition allows itself, under Netanyahu's leadership, to make foolish decisions just to satisfy their voters. The right-wing politicians treat their voters as a volatile and stupid mob that needs to be fed its pound of flesh every few days. They're wrong. Most of the right-wing voters don't support canceling the Western Wall plan and would not have gone to the barricades even if the Knesset didn't vote on the Regulation Law.
And just to show the problem is not between religious and secular, or right and left: it was only on Tuesday that Aryeh Deri called Tzohar Rabbi David Stav a "Reform Jew," which in Orthodox circles is considered to be an insult of the highest degree. Stav's sin is that the rabbis of the organization Tzohar, which he numbers among its leaders, oppose to the capitulation to the ultra-Orthodox.
These politicians prefer to make the harmful decisions and put these hot potatoes on the High Court's plate. That way they could tell themselves and those they consider a "mob" that they "did the right thing," because they proposed the legislation for the settlers, while on the other hand they hope—at least the serious ones among them—that the High Court would overturn these decisions to save Israel from itself, or at least from the anti-national coalition that governs it.
Even if the High Court does overturn both of the decisions, the damage to relations with American Jews has already permeated. Because of both the unnecessary Regulation Law and the cancelation of the Western Wall plan, Israel is viewed in the world as a little less democratic and a little less enlightened. The public discourse on the topic, and not just in the Jewish press, continues making waves. But to hell with national interests. Netanyahu's priorities are more cynical and less Zionist, and we're all paying the price.