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In the topsy-turvy world of Israeli politics and the concomitant turmoil in the senior police ranks, former Jerusalem police chief Cmdr. Mickey Levy is once more within reach of his long-sought goal of becoming the chief of police.
But the job may slip through his fingers - again - due to his close relationship with beleaguered Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
The 55-year-old Levy desperately sought the position in 2004, only to be passed over by then-Public Security Minister Tzahi Hanegbi, whose appointment of Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi, a relatively young and little-known commander, over more senior officers was met with astonishment.
A deeply disappointed Levy, who entered the public eye as the capital's indefatigable police chief at the height of the Palestinian suicide bombing campaign, recovered from a severe heart attack in 2002 and was subsequently appointed the Israel Police's representative in Washington.
The plum three-year posting was seen as a consolation prize before Levy retired after two and half decades of service.
Before leaving Jerusalem three years ago, a disappointed Levy made it clear he would be in the running for the Jerusalem mayor's job in 2008.
But the subsequent national election victory by Olmert - a close friend of Levy's from his days as Jerusalem mayor - Karadi's resignation over a scandal involving underworld figures, and the recent announcement that the man named to replace him, Israel Prisons Service Chief Warden Ya'acov Ganot, had withdrawn his candidacy has again made Levy one of the top candidates for the position of Israel Police inspector-general.
After Karadi announced his resignation in February, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter said Levy would serve as the deputy police commissioner under Ganot.
With Ganot now out of the picture, Levy, along with Southern District chief Cmdr. Uri Bar-Lev, are the leading contenders, if Dichter chooses a replacement from within the force.
The minister has angered police brass for saying he would prefer to appoint an outside candidate.
Dichter met with Levy and Bar-Lev late last week.
Levy's close rapport with the deeply unpopular Olmert is seen as hurting his chances in that it could spell more legal trouble for the police, in the form of High Court petitions against his appointment.
Other men in the running include Cmdr. Shachar Ayalon, head of the Traffic Division, who has been tapped to head the Northern District from the beginning of next month; Cmdr. Dudi Cohen, commander of the Central District, and Tel Aviv Police chief Cmdr. David Tzur.
Levy returned to Jerusalem last week as he neared the end of his tenure in the US, once again within sight of a job he has coveted for years, but still uncertain he will ever get it.
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