Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Deputy Health Minister Yacov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) to seek a compromise regarding the cancelation of the decision to relocate the Barzilai Medical Center emergency room in Ashkelon after ancient graves were found at the site.
The prime minister asserted that he would accept a decision that did not put lives at risk, in keeping with recommendations from medical professionals.
During the meeting, which took place in the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, Litzman said that his Knesset faction opposes the establishment of an emergency room on a site where Jewish graves may be located, and that as deputy health minister he is unable to take any decision under these circumstances.
Sources in United Torah Judaism said to Ynet, "The prime minister explained to Litzman that he is in a difficult position regarding the relocation of graves, and that apparently the plans for the emergency room will not be changed. Litzman responded that if this was the case, the faction would meet soon to decide on the steps it would take."
The same sources said that at present the party does not intend to give an ultimatum regarding the faction's continued participation in the coalition, but Litzman's continuation as deputy health minister was in doubt.
"He's not the minister, but the deputy, so in any case it's not him who decides," they said. "The final decision is the hands of the rabbis."
Deputy Health Minister Litzman's plan to fortify Barzilai was approved by the government last month, but it was agreed that it should be reexamined.
Meanwhile, following the public protest to the plan, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed a professional committee headed by his office's Director-General Eyal Gabai, to examine the matter "in a way that would prevent the endangerment of human life", and is slated to submit its conclusions in the near future.
On Sunday, President Shimon Peres referred to the affair as a "scandal." During a meeting with Chief Sephardic Rabbi Amar, Peres said he didn't understand why it had become a scandal, when Amar had already given his approval a few months ago.
"This is the only hospital in the region, and the southernmost on the western side of the Negev. I see great importance in fortifying it," he said.
Meital Yasur-Beit Or and Roni Sofer contributed to this report