Bar-Lev heads to Washington to forge closer ties

Analysis: Boosted intelligence sharing on terrorism and organized crime will be crucial.

Bar-Lev 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Bar-Lev 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Police Cmdr. Uri Bar-Lev will travel to the US in August to take up his new position as the Israel Police and Public Security Attaché in Washington. Bar-Lev plans to use his office to further Israeli-American cooperation on intelligence, terrorism, drug smuggling and organized crime, and to bolster Israel's image in the US. The former southern police commander is hardly a stranger to the American law enforcement community. Eight years ago, Bar-Lev stood at Ground Zero in New York City, together with senior American law enforcement officials, and surveyed the destruction. "It's the most terrible thing I've ever seen in my life," he said then, during a visit that saw him travel around America to discuss effective counter-terrorism measures with US police forces. In 2006, he received a commendation from the head of a visiting FBI delegation for intelligence he passed on to the Americans which helped prevent terrorist attacks in the US in 2002. Intelligence sharing with American law enforcement on a range of threats forms a key component in Bar-Lev's outlook. But he had to fight tooth and nail to attain his new position as police attache. His decision to launch a High Court appeal against controversial attempts by police commissioner Insp.-Gen. David Cohen to sack him kept Bar-Lev on the police force long enough for a new public security minister, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, to enter office and reinstate him in April, overruling Cohen's decision. Bar-Lev began his career in the security forces by joining the IDF's elite Sayeret Shaked Unit, where he underwent an officer's course in combat engineering. During a cross border counter-terrorism operation in Lebanon, Bar-Lev was injured and lost his leg under the knee. Despite the injury, Bar-Lev went on to found the elite undercover Duvdevan army unit. He then joined the police, after being asked by Ehud Barak to form a special counter-terrorism undercover unit for the Jerusalem Police. The unit became known as Gidonim, or Unit 33. After he returns to Israel in a few years' time, Bar-Lev may well become the next police commissioner. In the meantime, he is said to be looking forward to deepening an excellent relationship with American police and FBI officials. International drug dealing and organized crime networks operating in Israel and the US will form a second major focus for Bar-Lev. It was Bar-Lev's close links with the DEA that contributed to the arrest and extradition of Israeli mobster Ze'ev Rosenstein in 2004. Rosenstein was found guilty of running an intricate web of drug dealers to transport and sell vast amounts of narcotics, and is now serving out the rest of his sentence in Israel. As southern police commander, Bar-Lev founded the specialized Magen Unit, an elite force tasked with stopping the flow of arms and drugs from Egypt and Jordan into Israel. Bar-Lev will also be observing Canada and its long border with the US, which is targeted by criminal and terrorist smuggling rings. The police commander is guided by the notion that unlike the rivalry which exists between militaries, no conflict of interest exists between police forces from different countries, enabling a fruitful relationship between Israeli and American police. A third area of interest for Bar-Lev will be Israel's image in the US. The senior police official is keen to present Israel as a democratic state fighting for security in an undemocratic region plagued with terrorism. He also wishes to help promote an alternative image of Israel which is removed from the Middle East conflict, by presenting the country as a pioneer in science and technology.