US State Department slams Israeli stagnation on religious freedom reform

By Amanda Borschel-Dan | Times of Israel

The US State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report for 2016, released last week and compiled before the government suspended a deal on a permanent pluralistic prayer area at the Western Wall, diplomatically pans the lack of progress by the Israeli government toward increased religious freedom.

To chart the religious-ethnic teetering balance that is Israel, the report uses a tit-for-tat formulation highlighting positives, and often more negatives, that unfolded in the area of religious freedom in 2016. Of note, the word “continued” appears almost 70 times, an apt signal of the scant reforms implemented in the past year.

For example, the report states that Israel “continued to permit non-Jews, including Muslims and Christians, to pray at the Western Wall, but continued to enforce a prohibition on non-Orthodox (including mixed gender) Jewish prayer services.”