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Kotel Ball Is in Tzipi Livni’s Court

Could Tzipi Livni be sweetening feminists before dropping a bombshell?

As discussed earlier on Forward Thinking, Justice Minister Livni has just announced that she is working on legislation to criminalize the exclusion of women from the public sphere. The timing is interesting — just as she could find herself in a very awkward position on women’s issues.

Women of the Wall, the interdenominational feminist group that prays once a month at the Western Wall, is waiting to see what will become of its newfound rights.

For the first time ever, women tried to hold public prayers at the Western Wall with he blessing of the state today. It was be the group’s first prayer meeting since a landmark court ruling that will put an end to the police’s habit of detaining its members.

Women planned to gather at the Wall, some of them wearing prayer shawls and phylacteries, with guarantees from police that they will respect the protection that the court afforded them.

Instead of the police, women found themselves facing off against thousands of ultra-Orthodox demonstrators. Police had to protect them from the Haredi mob.

Now, non-Orthodox religious leaders are demanding an investigation into the violence.

Israel’s Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has just dealt the political establishment a trump card to clamp down on the women. This week he waived his right to challenge the permissive court ruling they received as he believes it accords with the current law, but in his decision he left the door wide open for the Religious Services Minister Naftali Bennett to redefine the law and put a stop to their newly-won right to public prayer at the Wall.

If Bennett decides to alter the law, he will head straight to Livni’s office for her signature to do so. The pressure will be high on Livni, the junior party of the coalition, from strongman Bennett. Perhaps she’s making a big gesture to women in her announcement today so that, if and when the time comes to reel in rights at the Kotel, she can say that she’s only lost a battle but won the war.

Either way, the ball is in Tzipi’s court.

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