Despite a veneer of diplomacy, it was impossible to ignore the tension during Thursday's handover of the Abu Kabir Detention Facility from the administration of the Israel Police to the Israel Prisons Service.
Public Security Minister Avi Dichter joined Israel Police Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi and the man who was almost Karadi's replacement, IPS Chief Warden Ya'acov Genot, at the ceremony in the prison courtyard.
But while all of the speakers hailed the successful cooperation between police and IPS necessary to carry out the handover, the underlying question which was alluded to by all of the speakers remained: Who will be the next chief of police?
Dichter said during his speech at the ceremony that speculations as to the identity of his next candidate for police chief were "not worth the paper they're written on," emphasizing that "we are all going to have to exercise patience" during the selection process.
Dichter's original candidate, Genot, withdrew his candidacy when it seemed probable that the Terkel Committee for approving senior civil service positions was going to reject his nomination.
Neither Genot nor Karadi spoke at the ceremony, and neither was willing afterward to express an opinion on the search for the police chief - which is threatening to become the biggest stumbling block since Dichter took over the ministry.
However, prior to the ceremony, when asked by reporters whether he had an opinion as to a suitable candidate, Karadi remained silent, smiling, then turned around and slapped Tel Aviv District Commander David Tzur on the back.
Tzur, who was passed over in favor of Karadi in 2003, is considered one of the commanders in the running for the role should Dichter be forced to recant his decision to find a candidate from outside of the police ranks.
The Abu Kabir facility, which has been officially renamed the Tel Aviv Detention Facility, is the largest police detention facility to be handed over to IPS management. The move is part of Dichter's plan to ensure that the IPS becomes the exclusive address for jailing in Israel.
All IDF prisons and detention facilities have already been handed over to the IPS.
The handover of Abu Kabir was supposed to occur in a few months, but the facility became the focus of negative attention when serious defects were found there following the escape of serial rapist Benny Sela.
As part of the ministry's response to the Yaron Report examining Sela's escape, Dichter ordered that the handover process be accelerated.
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