PM: Construction to Continue at Original Barzilai ER Site

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered the Health Ministry to prepare for the construction of a bomb-proof emergency ward at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon on the originally planned site.

Netanyahu's move yesterday reverses a controversial decision by the cabinet that would have relocated the project because of objections by ultra-Orthodox parties in the governing coalition. These parties had feared that ancient graves found there belonged to Jews.

Netanyahu said he made the decision in his capacity as acting Health Minister.

The Prime Minister's Bureau said the move was based in part on security and economic considerations.

Unlike the alternative site proposed by Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, the original site allows for the emergency ward to be connected underground to the hospital's main building.

Also, if the emergency ward is put up on the originally planned site, the project will cost less and take less time to complete.

Netanyahu said he hoped his decision would not cause problems in the coalition, in view of Litzman's threat that he would not be able to back the move.

"I would like very much to continue the cooperation with United Torah Judaism," Netanyahu said. "But at the same time, I am firm on my decision regarding the emergency ward at Barzilai."