PM hints Barzilai ER won't be moved

Netanyahu tells deputy health minister he'll ensure lives aren't endangered.

April 6, 2010 20:41
2 minute read.
DELAYS IN building a reinforced emergency room for

barzilai hospital ashkelon 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu hinted to Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman on Tuesday night that the proposed reinforced emergency room for Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center will be built at the originally planned site.

The decision came after a task force, headed by Prime Minister’s Office director-general Eyal Gabai, reevaluated a cabinet decision to relocate the emergency room due to graves found at the site.

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Netanyahu’s spokesman said the prime minister had told Litzman he would make a decision by next week that would ensure that lives would not be endangered. That was seen as a clear sign that for the prime minister, the danger to human life caused by building the ER farther from the hospital outweighed the disrespect to the graves.

Gabai was more blunt in an interview with Yediot Aharonot’s Nahum Barnea.

“The graves are not of Jews,” Gabai said. “We will build according to the original plan. I don’t work for Litzman. I work for the State of Israel.”

Netanyahu voted in favor of building the ER at a more distant site last month, allowing the decision to pass the cabinet by a narrow margin. Critics said that revising the plans would cost an extra NIS 136 million, delay the project for two years and put the facility too far from the hospital’s main building.

Litzman, a Gur Hassid from United Torah Judaism, had threatened to resign if the facility were not built on the distant parking lot instead of the nearby plot chosen four years ago. He told Netanyahu in the meeting that he had not changed his mind about the site for the ER.

But officials in the party said Tuesday night that Litzman could avoid quitting because Netanyahu, as health minister, could overrule him and take responsibility for the sin of disrespecting the graves.

The UTJ faction discussed the matter on Tuesday at the Knesset and was set to meet again later in the week to discuss Netanyahu’s decision. Faction officials said it was unlikely that they would end up deciding to quit the coalition over the matter, but that the decision was in the hands of their rabbis.

“No one thought we would leave the government [in 2000] over the turbine that was moved on Shabbat,” a party official said. “The rabbis could decide anything.”

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