In what is being described by opponents as a politically-motivated play for time, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter requested on Monday that the High Court delay an upcoming scheduled session on the fate of police Southern Chief Cmdr. Uri Bar-Lev by three weeks, to a date which falls after the December 17 Kadima primaries. "Due to the constraints of time and the sensitivity of the topic of the appeal, the minister for public security has not managed to formulate his decision by the specified time," the request to the High Court read. Bar-Lev, who is credited with a significant reduction of crime in the southern district, was summarily dismissed by Israel Police Commissioner Insp.-Gen. David Cohen in August in a highly controversial decision. The dismissal came after Bar-Lev, who holds two degrees, turned down Cohen's offer of a study leave. At the the time, the offer was interpreted by police sources as an attempt to push Bar-Lev out of the force. In September, Bar-Lev appealed to the High Court against his forced leave of absence and the attempt to dismiss him, and the court was scheduled to hold a session over the issue on December 15. Dichter initially distanced himself from Cohen's decision to fire Bar-Lev, but on October 26, he called a hearing to decide Bar-Lev's future. The minister spoke little during the meeting, and said he would announce his decision in the coming days. Five weeks later Dichter has yet to make a decision, and has now asked the court for a further delay, leaving Israel's southern district without a commander for three months. In a statement sent to The Jerusalem Post, a spokesman for Dichter said the minister had requested a delay because he was "waiting for a number of opinions [from experts] on the Bar-Lev issue." The spokesman described the claim that Dichter was attempting to delay a controversial decision which could cause him political damage to a date after the upcoming primaries as being "untrue." In a letter sent to the High Court, Bar-Lev's lawyer, Yaakov Ne'eman, wrote, "This request for a delay should be rejected, as it was submitted at the last moment, and as the respondent [Dichter] had five weeks [to come to a decision] since the hearing he held for the petitioner [Bar-Lev]." The statement added that Dichter failed to explain how he had used the past five weeks to come to a decision, or to explain why he had been unable to make a decision in the time allotted to him. "In light of these circumstances, a most grave suspicion appears that the lack of a decision... stems from an improper desire to play for time... as the minister for interior security does not wish to take a decision before his party's primaries," Ne'eman wrote in his reply to Dichter's request. Responding to Dichter's claim that a short delay would "cause no damage to the petitioner [Bar-Lev], as his situation would not change and he would continue to be on paid holiday," Ne'eman characterized the comments as "the height of cynicism, unreceptiveness and lack of good faith."