After a long struggle and widespread opposition, Litzman wins the battle for Barzilai. Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman's construction plans for a relocated, fortified emergency room at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon were approved.
The plan, whose price tag is notably higher than originally planned and will take longer to carry out, was passed by a slim majority of 11 to 10 and will include the relocation of the fortified emergency room in order to avoid relocating ancient graves found on the site.
Health Ministry Director-General Dr. Eitan Hai-Am submitted his resignation to Litzman Sunday following the government's decision to up the costs of the fortified emergency room.
Sources in the Health Ministry said that it was agreed that Hai-Am will continue on in his post until his replacement, the current director of the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, assumes the position. The appointment is subject to government approval.
During a discussion of the issue, the cabinet decided to authorize the plan in principle. The decision also delayed implementation of the plan by a month. Throughout the month, alternative solutions will be examined together with relevant parties to the matter. The various bodies will update the cabinet secretary as to their findings at the end of this period. If necessary, the cabinet will be asked to review the matter.
During the cabinet's discussion of the relocation, the deputy health minister threatened to resign should the plan not be authorized. Minister Benny Begin suggested the compromise that was ultimately agreed upon by the cabinet.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voted in favor of the proposal, along with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and other Yisrael Beiteinu ministers. The Labor Party ministers voted against the move.
'Government dabbles in necrophilia'Litzman said during the cabinet discussion: "In principle, I am against moving any grave, be it a grave of a Jew or not."
Dr. Eitan Hai-Am opposed the deputy health minister's position during the discussion. His opposition revolved around the distance between the hospital's buildings and the emergency room as well as the high cost of relocation.
Meretz Chairman Chaim Oron said that the cabinet's decision shows that "this is a government with a fundamentalist agenda that dabbles in necrophilia."
"The time has come to leave the dead alone and to start counting the living. The border towns in the south are falling victim to considerations that are out of this world," said MK Oron.
In response, the Kadima party said in a statement, "Prime Minister Netanyahu folded under the coalition threat and abandoned the residents of Ashkelon to Hamas' threats."
The statement continued, "This is a wretched decision that stands in defiance of all public logic and amounts to political blackmailing that spits in the face of a large public in the south of the country in the name of coalition solidarity."
Ashkelon Mayor Benny Vaknin was dismayed by the decision. Vaknin noted, "I am sorry Rabbi Litzman enshrines the dead at the expense of the living."
Meital Yasur-Beit Or contributed to this report