Eilat Mayor Knew of Assault Allegations Against Bar-Lev

The external adviser to the Public Security Ministry who has filed sexual harassment charges against police Maj. Gen. Uri Bar-Lev told Eilat's mayor that Bar-Lev had sexually assaulted her during a police conference in Eilat two years ago.

Eilat's mayor, Meir Yitzhak Halevi, made the comments to investigators. Halevi is one of a number of officials who have testified to the Justice Ministry's Police Investigations Department over the past few days. Most of these officials have worked with the adviser, known as A.

Some of the officials, from inside and outside the Public Security Ministry, said A. had told them about the alleged attack shortly after it happened and had been very upset.

The attorney general instructed the public security minister Thursday to suspend the procedure for appointing the next police commissioner, following his decision to launch a criminal investigation into Bar-Lev, a leading candidate for the post.

Investigators reportedly consider the testimonies very significant, as they constitute verification of A.'s version of events by individuals who have no vested interest in the investigation.

According to A., one evening during the conference, she and Bar-Lev were in an open setting. Bar-Lev bent over her, at which point she pushed him away, she said. But Bar-Lev threatened that he knew her hotel room number, she said, adding that he called her room in the hotel 14 times during the night.

A close friend of A., who also testified to the Police Investigations Department, told Haaretz that A. "was shocked at what happened" and that A. was being treated badly in the media. "This is a woman who has values and is credible," she said.

The friend also said A. did not file a complaint at the time because Bar-Lev is a "highly esteemed individual, very connected; she was afraid of him - that he would spread lies about her, rumors. She was also afraid of the way the media would present things, and we see how many lies are being published."

Investigators expect to obtain a court order for a transcript of Bar-Lev's phone conversations with A. to check her version of events.

Bar-Lev, currently the police representative in Washington, is expected to come to Israel next week on a private visit for his daughter's induction into the army. But he is expected to be summoned for questioning.

An associate of Bar-Lev who spoke with him over the weekend said he sounded strong and sure the truth would come out. "He believes a terrible injustice has been done to him," the associate said.

By law, the police commissioner may suspend a member of the police force who is being investigated for a crime. However, in the case of senior officers, the suspension must be approved by the public security minister.

"At the moment the issue is not on the agenda," a police spokesman, Commander Rafi Yaffe, told Haaretz.

The Civil Service Commission is also investigating a complaint by A. of sexual harassment against the outgoing director-general of the Public Security Ministry, Hagai Peleg.

At the end of the week, it emerged that Cabinet Secretary Gideon Hausner heard from A. about Peleg's behavior. Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar also reportedly heard some of A.'s complaints about Peleg last year. Sa'ar has not been asked to testify to the Civil Service Commission, and it is not clear if he will be asked to do so.

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch is expected to announce his choice for police commissioner by the end of this year or in early 2011. Sources close to him said he would not announce his choice until the investigation against Bar-Lev has been completed. In any case, the sources said, the announcement would come only after approval by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.

Associates of Aharonovitch said yesterday that in a conversation the minister had with Weinstein after they coordinated the decision to freeze the selection of the next commissioner, the minister said he "reserves the right to move forward the choice of commissioner if the battles of the generals continue to stain the good name of the Israel Police."

Ten police generals are expected to retire from the service after the selection of the new commissioner, leaving only five - Bentzi Sau, Yoram Halevi, Nissim Mor, Yoav Segalovich and David Mansur.