Officials: Political deal-making behind ER relocation
Sources in Jerusalem say Yisrael Beteinu supported controversial haredi initiative to relocate Ashkelon hospital's emergency room in exchange for United Torah Judaism's support of their candidate in upcoming Arad mayoral elections. 'These allegations are aimed at hurting leading candidate's chances,' senior aide says
Officials in Jerusalem on Monday claimed that a political deal between Yisrael Beitenu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman and Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party was behind cabinet's controversial approval of the costly relocation of Barzilai Medical Center's new fortified emergency room building to a more remote spot so as not to disturb ancient graves found on the site.
Three Yisrael Beitenu ministers - Lieberman, Uzi Landau and Sofa Landver – voted on Sunday in favor of the ER's relocation, while two party ministers - Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Stas Misezhnikov – abstained.
According to a senior official, in exchange for Yisrael Beitenu's support, UTJ will back Lieberman's candidate in the Arad mayoral elections, which are set to take place in about three weeks.
Officials further claim that Yisrael Beitenu, a secular party, backed the relocation of the new ER building in the Ashkelon hospital in order to secure Agudat Yisrael's support during the upcoming vote on the conversion bill.
Agudat Yisrael is one of two factions that make up UTJ. The other is Degel HaTorah.
Degel HaTorah is guided by the rabbinic heads of non-Hasidic haredi Ashkenazi Jews, while the leading members of Agudat Israel are the followers of the Gur, Vizhnitz, Boston and Sadigura Hasidic sects.
On Monday the chairman of the Arad elections, who was appointed by the Interior Ministry, was expected to submit to the local elections committee a list of candidates who will be participating in the mayoral elections.
'I met everyone'
As of today, the front-runner is Yisrael Beitenu member Tali Peliskov.
"The Gur Hasidic sect has a tendency to vote for the candidate who has the best chance of winning," one of the Arad mayoral candidates explained, "Gur wants to be on the winning side. This is about survival of the fittest."
Shas and UTJ, along with other religious parties, formed an alliance and presented a list of candidates for the Arad City Council under the "Jewish Front" banner.
Peliskov's campaign headquarters dismissed the claims. "We haven’t closed a deal with anyone," a senior aide said, "It's still early. These claims are aimed at hurting the leading candidate's chances."
Peliskov herself told Ynet that she had in fact met with representatives of the Gur sect, but stressed that the talks were conducted as part of a series of meetings with representatives of the city's various communities.
"I have met with everyone – including rabbis representing Chabad and Gur," said the leading candidate, "I want to understand the residents' needs."
An Yisrael Beitenu member dismissed the allegations of political deal-making as "nonsense."
Some Yisrael Beitenu officials said they that while they did not fully support the party's decision to back the ER's relocation, their main concern remains the advancement of the new wing's construction.
Litzman's office also denied the claims, saying Agudat Yisrael has its own candidate in the Arad mayoral elections – Yisrael Bersky.