In this regard we should clear some important things up. Firstly, the Western Wall is not Judaism's holiest site. Saying it is both betrays a profound ignorance of history and validates false Arab claims that the har haBayis belongs to them. The Western Wall isn't even part of the Temple but the last piece of the retaining wall which shored up the compound that surrounded the Temple and the har haBayis. It contains the general holiness of the city of Yerushalayim but nothing more. Over the millenia it has become a symbol of our national downfall and exile but when we see the Wall we should not think of it as a holy site but rather a reminder of what we are missing behind it up where the big golden dome currently sits.
For centuries the Wall was a quiet site for Jewish prayer. People came and poured out their hearts to the Creator. Organized prayer was rare due to a lack of cooperation from ruling authorities over the ages as well as the Muslim propensity for using the small alleyway in front of it as a dump.
All this changed after God miraculously returned the Old City to Israel in 1967. As a reminder of the way things were we must remember that when the first Israeli soldiers reached it they had no idea what they'd found. It was one side of a narrow, garbage-strewn alley and it was only after they found the actual har haBayis that the asimon dropped.
Today, of course, no one can miss the place with its open plaza and endless hordes of schnorrers intermingled with tourists and their cute little cone-shaped kippos. Unfortunately, along with fame has come trouble.
It is an inconvenient truth that when Jews of all kinds gather to pray and wish to be inclusive of all comers it is necessary for there to be a mechitzah and separation of men and women. There is no rule in the non-observant "streams" of Judaism forbidding separate worship and there is a rule in Torah-observant Judaism demanding it. Therefore, in order to serve as a place of worship inclusive of all Jews there must be a mechitzah at the Wall. An egalitarian plaza would be a sign of a desire to exclude the Orthodox from participation or demanding that we abandon Orthodoxy as a prerequisite for joining the rest of the community.
This hasn't stopped a small group of malcontents from trying to upset the status quo. The Women of the Wall has, for years, instigated riots through their desire to bring egalitarianism to the Wall. Not satisfied with just that they have also waged legal battles to accomplish their ends. And recently they scored a tremendous victory, or so it was portrayed, by having the Robinson's Arch section of the Wall declared an egalitarian plaza.
It hasn't taken long to fall apart.
First there was the usual protest from the UltraOrthodox community about the creation of a non-halachic section at the Wall. This is, in my opinion, incorrect. I will explain by way of a personal example.
I live in a small community, one in which the day school must accommodate observant and non-observant children in order to survive. The compromise over the years has been for the school to provide a very watered-down limudei kodesh curriculum but to exclusively hire Orthodox rabbonim to teach it. About 16 years ago or so a group of non-observant parents, not satisfied with this arrangement, began demanding that the Reform and Conservative rabbis in town be hired to teach in the school to provide their "perspective" in limudei kodesh. After the leadership of the school refused these parents took their children and a chunk of funding from the local Jewish federation and started a private Jewish school all their own.
At first this was seen as a terrible schism within the community. We're a small one without any multimillionaires to keep us afloat. (However we are currently accepting applications for one, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if interested and rich enough) Every dollar from every person counts. There is barely enough money in the community's coffers for one school, let alone two. Yet after a while we realized this split was a blessing in disguise. The formation of this Reform school took much pressure off the main dayschool which could continue its hiring policy without any real parental opposition.
The Ultraorthodox community should see the creation of the new plaza in this light. No matter how persuasive Rav Avi Shafran and his bagmen try to be, they are unlikely to convince the WoW to start davening in a proper, observant fashion. The new plaza separates the two groups, reduces friction and allows each group to go about their religious business without interference.
The Ultraorthodox protest isn't why this deal will fall apart.
First of all, there's the Muslim factor. The Waqf is well-known for supporting the destruction of archaeological remains under the har haBayis while hypocritically condemning any minor renovations at the Wall as an egregious violation of the so-called status quo. They have already began to issue threats at this new renovation plan even though it doesn't affect them one whit.
More significantly, the Women of the Wall are going to ensure this fails. Why?
There are two factions within the group, if you recall. One group is non-observant and wants to bring egalitarian do-as-you-please worship to the Wall. They are not interested in worshiping, per se, but in being seen worshiping. Let one think this an unfair comment, consider that their leaders are already rejecting this new deal because they feel it excludes them from the Wall. This is naturally completely contradictory to the facts on the ground. The Wall at the edge of Robinson's Arch is the same Wall as at the Plaza. If it's the Wall they want to pray at, there is it, but it's not. It's the Plaza they want because of the attention to crave, the "here we are!" factor.
The other group, the observant women who simply want to sing out loud without Chareidim screaming "kol ishah" at them aren't interested in an egalitarian prayer plaza. The deal doesn't address them at all and rather implies they are secondary to the egalitarian group.
The biggest proof of their nefarious intentions is, however, found in the non-observant religious thinking. Orthodox Jews pray thrive daily for the rebuilding of the Temple. Our davening is centred around recollections of its avodah. We present ourselves to the Wall because of the Temple that used to stand behind it.
The non-observant, however, are quite different in their approach. Reform liturgy has never ascribed importance to the Temple or its rebuilding. Conservative liturgy actively removed mentions of the rebuilding from its prayer books and even composed alternative amidah prayers to avoid mentioning the avodah at all. You'd think that with such a lack of interest they wouldn't care much about the Wall and praying there. yet they do. Why?
Because we do. We, the Orthodox, have made a big deal out of the Wall, turned it from a place for private prayer into the world's largest outdoor shul. Since the Plaza is national property, however, our treating it as our private place of worship others are invited to attend was bound to create acrimony.
There is also jealousy, a driving factor in egalitarianism, protests against this idea to the contrary. Let's be honest. Yes, there are a small number of egalitarians who genuinely believe that they need to put on tefillin to properly connect to God but they are outnumbered by those who want to do it because "the men get to do it". On a large scale this is pushing the WoW in their agenda. They don't want egalitarian prayers at the Wall. If they did, they'd be already crowding Robinson's Arch. they want to end orthodox prayer at the Plaza because it offends them. They want the Plaza because the Orthodox have it.
One sometimes gets the felling that if the chief rabbis were to announce that all prayer at the Wall must immediately relocated to a nice felafel stand in the Armenian quarter that the WoW would follow us there and demand egalitarian worship while completely forgetting about the Wall. Such superficial jealously should be pitied.