Police commissioner says he won't quit over decision to reinstate Uri Bar-Lev

Cohen also distances himself from claims that new minister is acting to help Lieberman.

uri bar lev 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
uri bar lev 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Police Commissioner Insp.-Gen. David Cohen said on Thursday he had no intention of quitting his post despite a decision by Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch to return Cmdr. Uri Bar-Lev to senior police ranks. Although the reinstatement flies in the face of Cohen's months-long controversial effort to fire the venerated former southern district police commander, Cohen has sought to put the episode behind him, saying that he respected Aharonovitch's "legitimate" decision, and denying that a crisis of confidence had erupted. On Wednesday night, Cohen held a conference call with police brass, and told them that while his stance on Bar-Lev was clear, Aharonovitch's authority to reinstate Bar-Lev was unquestionable, and that he had never doubted Aharonovitch's decision-making process or integrity. Cohen has also sought to distance himself from claims that have appeared in the media, reportedly made by sources close to the police commissioner, to the effect that Aharonovitch has made a series of decisions since taking up his post aimed at weakening Cohen and the police, in line with nefarious orders from Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who is under police investigation for suspicion of fraud, money laundering and bribery. According to the reports, the decision to reinstate Bar-Lev, and plans to create city police forces answerable to mayors rather than the police's national headquarters, were part of that plan. In one article which appeared in the Yisrael Hayom newspaper, the sources pointed to the appointments of men closely linked with Lieberman to key positions in the Public Security Ministry, such as Hagai Peled (director-general of the ministry), and Amos Dahari (Aharonovitch's political adviser). Responding to the allegations, Tal Harel, spokesman for the Public Security Ministry, said, "We don't intend to answer these remarks, which are baseless and are on the verge of being hallucinatory." Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, former northern district police chief Cmdr. (ret.) Yaakov Borovsky, who was until recently a candidate to become director-general of the Public Security Ministry, described such claims as "ridiculous." "I know Aharonovitch personally. He is an honest, law-abiding individual. The feud between Cohen and Bar-Lev lost proportions. Every workplace has feuds. To connect this to Lieberman, you have to have a rich imagination," he said. "[Former Public Security Minister Avi] Dichter also suggested resolving this issue in this way, by appointing Bar-Lev to a senior anti-terrorism position. Aharonovitch's decision was brave and logical. I don't see any problem here. Some people will always be looking for a darker connection," Borovsky added. Similarly, plans to set up city police forces were "excellent," Borovksy said, adding that they had no connection to any supposed agenda of Lieberman's. "There is a lack of personal security in the cities, that is a fact. Therefore there must be city polices. Aharonovitch has not yet proposed a plan," he added. Borovsky said he believed Cohen's denial of links to the Lieberman conspiracy theories being advanced in the press. "Cohen is a man of the uniform. He expects his subordinates to back him, so he will back his superior [Aharonovitch]. There are always those with an interest to make such statements," he said. Former police commissioner Assaf Hefetz, who launched a failed campaign to become public security minister on behalf of the Likud party, also dismissed talk of a scheme by Lieberman to damage the police. "I know these people who were appointed. Dahari was in the Civil Guard, and Peled served in the Central Unit. I can't support the idea [that they were sent by Lieberman to harm the police]. Aharonovitch is a public servant, and he is acting in the public good. I don't see anything else," Hefetz said. Hefetz added that Aharonovitch's decisions so far had been "good," and said that the media was seeking to throw fuel on the fire of existing controversies. "Aharonovitch and Cohen can certainly work together. They shouldn't let the media confuse them," Hefetz said.