Netanyahu Aide Likely to Overturn Ruling to Move Ashkelon Hospital

The cabinet decided last week to alter plan to build new, reinforced emergency room, because of ancient graves.

The director general of the Prime Minister's Office, Eyal Gabai, is expected to recommend to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reverse the previous cabinet decision on moving the new emergency room at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon. Instead, Gabai will recommend to Netanyahu to move the graves at the site that prevented building the emergency room, which is to be reinforced against rocket attacks, at its original site.

"It looks that there will be a recommendation from the professional team [examining the matter] to move the graves from their present site, and build the protected emergency room in the closest possible location to the existing hospital buildings," said a source in the Prime Minister's Office after the visit last week to the hospital and an examination of the site.

Sources in the PMO did not deny the report, but said that the examination is still continuing and no decision has yet been made.

"The recommendation will be presented to the prime minister and the cabinet, as decided, after Pesach," said a spokeswoman for Gabai. "As long as the recommendation has not been finalized, it is impossible to comment on conjectures," she said.

The cabinet decided a week ago to change the plan to build the new, reinforced emergency room because of ancient graves on the site. The decision resulted in a wave of public criticism of Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism), who was behind the proposal ¬ and against Netanyahu, who allowed the cabinet to approve the decision.

After Netanyahu returned from Washington last Monday and realized how strongly the public objected to the decision, he appointed Gabai to reexamine the matter. Netanyahu, who officially serves as health minister, forced Litzman to accept the reappraisal.

Litzman claims there is a chance the graves belong to Jews and moving them would desecrate the dead. However, the Antiquities Authority has stated that the graves are of non-Jews.

The question is this: If Gabai's recommendation is accepted, how will Litzman ¬ who has threatened a coalition crisis over the issue ¬ respond?

The State Prosecutor's Office notified the High Court of Justice yesterday that Gabai's study of the matter will include hearing from medical and security experts. Last week the Movement for Quality Government petitioned the High Court over the makeup of Gabai's team, which does not include medical or security personnel nor public representatives.