Top Cop's Woes and Olmert victory seen as altering next Jerusalem Mayoral race

By ETGAR LEFKOVITS
May 24, 2006 22:05

3 minute read.



In the topsy-turvy world of Israeli politics, the election victory of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the concomitant and burgeoning woes facing Israel's chief of police over the bungling of a murder case are seen as directly impacting the next Jerusalem mayoral race in two years time. A potential three way mayoral race in 2008 between Mayor Uri Lupolianski, or one of his haredi associates, Jerusalem opposition leader Nir Barkat and former Jerusalem police chief Mickey Levy appears to have shifted back to a Lupolianski-Barkat showdown, since Olmert is said to be poised to offer Levy, his long-time friend, the position of chief of police. The 55-year-old Levy had desperately sought that job just two years ago, only to be passed over by then Internal Security Minister Tzahi Hanegbi whose appointment of Moshe Karadi, a relatively young and little-known commander as Israel's top cop over the more senior police chiefs was met with astonishment by senior police brass and much of the Jerusalem public. A deeply disappointed Levy, who rose to the epicenter of public attention in his role as indefatigable city police chief at the height of the wave of Palestinian suicide bombings that rocked the capital, was subsequently appointed Israel police's representative to Washington. The job, a plush three-year posting, was considered to be his consolation prize and swan song before he removed his police uniform after two and half decades of police service, which was capped by his term as Jerusalem police chief, which included 22 suicide bombings and one heart attack. Before leaving Jerusalem two years ago, a clearly disappointed Levy made clear however that he was going to be in the running for the next Jerusalem Mayoral elections, scheduled for 2008. In a bitter twist of irony, months after Levy set out for the US capital, Hanegbi, who had passed over Levy in his choice for police inspector general, was forced to resign from his job as internal security minister due to still-pending criminal investigations against him. In the meantime, it appeared that both Levy and Jerusalem opposition leader Nir Barkat would face off in the next mayoral election against a haredi candidate such as Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski - who has given mixed indication over whether he would step down from office after completing his five-year term - but who was clearly poised to benefit by the fact that that the secular city vote would be divided in half between the two men. But with Levy's long-time friend Ehud Olmert now prime minister, and Moshe Karadi's future in doubt due to the bungling of a murder case, Karadi's days as Israel's top cop are thought to be numbered, with many officials considering him lucky to remain in office through the end of his term next year. Karadi and 12 other senior law enforcement officials received warning letters Tuesday for their mishandling of the convoluted 1999 murder of a criminal while he was hospitalized under police custody. The murder was allegedly committed by a policeman on the order of an Israeli crime family. The policeman fled the country before he could be arrested, and was murdered in Mexico in 2004. With Karadi now in hot waters over the case, Levy, who was long thought to be at the end of his police career after being passed over for the job of chief of police, has suddenly reemerged as the leading candidate for the position he so coveted. Levy received a warm embrace by Olmert when he landed in the US on Sunday. If Levy gets the nod from Olmert, as is widely expected, it will make things much easier for Barkat, who himself has tried to tag on to the Olmert team in the last year - even becoming the head of the Kadima party headquarters in Jerusalem - in the hopes of getting the nod from the premier when it comes time for the Jerusalem mayoral elections. In contrast to Olmert's warm relationship with Levy, Olmert had always been tepid at best when it comes to Barkat, with such an endorsement far from certain. At the same time, Levy's exit from a future mayoral race for the position of chief of police would prove to be a great boon for Barkat, even as other candidates throw their hat in what is considered to be Israel's most prominent mayoral race.


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