I had such high hopes for Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman when he first started on the job. Other than one maligned statement about renaming swine flu, he seemed to handle the (non) crisis quite well. However, recent events seemed to have precipitated his imminent political downfall.
As this article in The Jerusalem Post notes, the ongong controversy over the Barzilai emergency room building has pushed even those in Litzman's Chareidi community too far.
To summarize - human remains were found at the proposed site of the new ER. Now, there are many acceptable solutions to such a problem, especially when the issue is building a new emergency facility that will be rocket proof and therefore save lives in the event of another rocket outburst from 'Aza or Lebanon. Moving them is one possiblity. Determining that they are not Jewish is another.
However, in Litzman's case, it seemed to be a predetermined conclusion that there would be no compromise other than the one he suggested: to relocate the ER to a relatively distant location from the rest of the hospital. There would be no discussion of moving the remains and even after it was shown by archeologists that the bodies were those of Philistines (the real Palestinians, oh irony!) he refused to change his mind.
His trump card? UTJ's participation in the shaky government coaltion, the timeless Chareidi party's tactic of political blackmail. However, as the article shows, the party and many of its supporters have had an aboutface in response to the open and frankly justified hositlity to Litzman's intransigence:
Haredi online media outlets lambasted deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman Wednesday for the public outcry resulting from the delay in construction of a rocket-proof emergency room.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is apparently leaning toward retracting the cabinet decision from two weeks ago to shift the location of the proposed reinforced emergency room for Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center, following the public uproar and the recommendation of his office’s director-general, who reevaluated a cabinet decision to relocate the emergency room due to graves found at the site.
Meanwhile, haredi online media outlets are expressing discontent over what is being described as an unnecessary battle that caused immense damage to the ultra-orthodox sector.
Litzman, a Gur Hassid from United Torah Judaism, had threatened to resign if the facility were not built on the distant parking lot instead of the nearby plot chosen four years ago. In a Tuesday meeting between Litzman and Netanyahu, the premier reportedly insinuated that the ER would indeed be built on the original site.
Bibi Netanyahu knows what all good Israeli prime ministers have known before him. UTJ and Shas will huff and puff but a nice infusion of cash into their institutions will allow them the heter they need to shut up and stay in government. I would not be surprised to discover that such negotiations between Netanyahu and Litzman's superiors has already quietly taken place to ensure a compromise that will save lives will be reached. Hopefully the only victim in the end will be Litzman's career.