A Probe Before an Appointment

Uri Bar-Lev must be exonerated of all blame, not just benefit from a lack of evidence, before taking his post as police chief.

On Thursday, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein decided, after consulting with various parties, to open an investigation by the Justice Ministry's Police Investigations Department. The investigation, we were told, concerns suspicions against police Maj. Gen. Uri Bar-Lev regarding an incident two years ago. The announcement did not go into details.

Since then no further announcement has provided an explanation, amid rumors about what did or did not happen during a police convention in Eilat. According to Dr. A., an outside adviser to the Public Security Ministry, she was sexually assaulted by Bar-Lev, the former commander of the police's Southern District. Her version was reported in the media, against firm denials by Bar-Lev.

We can assume that the attorney general would not have ordered an investigation and postponed the appointment of the next police commissioner without receiving information that justified this. But it's also clear that the investigation is still in its infancy.

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch seeks to announce his candidate for the next police commissioner without too much of a delay. But if he considers Bar-Lev a possible candidate, he should wait. It's not desirable for Bar-Lev to be removed from the running due to an investigation whose outcome is unknown.

Once the investigation has been launched, we can assume the process will go on without delay. In the coming days the Police Investigations Department is expected to summon senior members of the police and the Public Security Ministry to give testimony. It's possible that Police Commissioner David Cohen and major generals who have heard details about the incident will have to give testimony. In the current atmosphere, Bar-Lev must be exonerated of all blame, not just benefit from a lack of evidence.

The suspicions must be investigated, even if the case is closed at the end of the day. The same is true for every citizen, every minister, a prime minister or a president. And the same is true when it comes to a judge, a prosecutor or a police officer.

All this is to ensure the principle of equality before the law. What we need now is a swift completion of the investigation. The minister must await its results before announcing his candidate and presenting him to the government.