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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A dramatic end to the controversy surrounding attempts by Police Commissioner Insp.-Gen. David Cohen to fire Cmdr. Uri Bar-Lev, the former southern police district head, came late on Monday night, when Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharanovitch reinstated Bar-Lev into the police and appointed him as the Israel Police's attache to the United States.
Aharanovitch's intervention has ended months of uncertainty over the future of Bar-Lev, a commander esteemed by many rank and file officers, who helped bring crime levels down significantly in the South. The decision to reinstate him has slammed the door shut on Cohen's attempts to push Bar-Lev out of the police, and has inevitably increased tensions between Cohen and Aharanovitch. It may also precipitate a crisis of confidence between the police commissioner and the public security minister.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Bar-Lev said his new appointment would present him with the opportunity to increase cooperation and build on links with American law enforcement agencies to coordinate responses to serious international crimes and terrorism.
"This is a position which has previously been held by Aharanovitch himself, as well as [former Jerusalem police commander] Mickey Levi. It is based in Washington D.C. in order to allow good communication with the FBI," Bar-Lev said. He added that his new post will also involve working with law enforcement in New York, Los Angeles, and
South American police forces.
Bar-Lev has in the past received an award from the FBI for close cooperation over terrorism. He is due to fly out to the US capital in around two months, when preparations for his new role will be complete.
In a statement released on Monday night, Tal Harel, spokesman for Aharonovitch, said the public security minister had "examined the details" of Bar-Lev's petition to the High Court against his sacking, and concluded "[together] with the police commissioner that Bar-Lev will not be fired."
Following the decision, Aharonovitch invited Bar-Lev to his office for a meeting, during which the former southern police chief accepted the post of the Public Security Ministry's police attache to the US, and agreed to "withdraw his petition from the High Court immediately," the statement said.
Aharonovitch expressed his "confidence that the police commissioner and Cmdr. Bar-Lev will cooperate and move the police forward to meet the many challenges that await it," adding that "Bar-Lev has offered his sincere apology to the police commissioner as a [senior police] officer."
Shortly afterwards, Cohen released a statement saying that "the decision to appoint Bar-Lev is in opposition to the commissioner's view, but falls under the authority of the minister [of public security]."
Bar-Lev was summarily dismissed by Cohen in late August after turning down an offer of a study leave, which was interpreted by police sources at the time as an attempt to push Bar-Lev out of the force.
He has since launched a High Court battle to challenge his sacking, saying that there was no need for him to go on study leave as he already holds two degrees.
Bar-Lev is credited with leading a successful war on crime in the South, and with bringing police and local authorities closer together.