Appointment of Police Chief Delayed as Candidate Faces Sexual Harassment Probe

Uri Bar-Lev, seen as front-runner to replace David Cohen, maintains innocence.

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

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said the Justice Ministry's Police Investigation Department would investigate Bar-Lev on suspicion of sexually harassing an outside adviser employed by the Public Security Ministry.

police - Archive: Emil Salman / Jini - November 19 2010
Archive: Emil Salman / Jini

"I'm convinced the investigation will prove beyond a doubt that my conduct was impeccable," Bar-Lev told Haaretz.

Weinstein decided to probe the affair after holding a meeting with State Prosecutor Moshe Lador, the head of the Police Investigation Department Herzl Shviro and Civil Service Commission officials about the suspicions against Bar-Lev.

The adviser had filed a sexual harassment complaint against Hagai Peleg, who resigned last week from his post as Public Security Ministry director general following the complaint.

The Civil Service Commission is looking into her complaint.

Weinstein said on Wed-nesday that the commission will take disciplinary measures against Peleg, and his case will not be passed on to the police for a criminal investigation.

At the same time, the Police Investigation Department received information from Peleg and another person that the adviser had complained she was sexually harassed by Bar-Lev while he was the commander of the police's Southern District.

The Police Investigation Department asked the woman not to submit a formal complaint against Bar-Lev to let them examine the suspicions against him. But she refused to cooperate and would not give them any details of the incident. So the department dropped the case.

Officers in the department have recently approached the woman again, summoning her for an interview about the event involving Bar-Lev.

Sources familiar with the investigation said the woman came to the department's office but asked officials there not to view her statement as an official complaint against Bar-Lev.

However, following legal advice, the woman told officers at the department about the event in full.

police - Emil Salman - November 19 2010
Emil Salman

Weinstein recently received the woman's statement as well as other information about the case and decided to launch the probe against Bar-Lev.

A source close to Bar-Lev told Haaretz yesterday he had no doubt Bar-Lev would tell the department's investigators everything he knew about the struggle for the police commissioner's post. Bar-Lev says he has been made a victim of this struggle.

"Bar-Lev will tell everything he knows about the people involved in making this this complaint, including senior police officers," the source said. "This is an all-out war."

Bar-Lev, 51, is now serving as the police's representative in the United States, after being brought back to the force by Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch.

Bar-Lev joined the Israel Police in 1990 and founded the elite Gideonites unit. He served as the police's Southern District commander, intelligence chief and assistant to Police Commissioner Assaf Hefetz. He also commanded the Jerusalem police's central investigation unit.

In the IDF, Bar-Lev was one of the founders of the elite Duvdevan unit and commanded it for three years. Before that he served in combat engineering and lost his leg when explosives he was handling in the Golan went off.

In 1995 he won a service medal.

He was seen as having close ties with the media and was suspected of leaking information a few times. Police sources say this could cost him the commissioner's appointment.

In August 2008, Police Commissioner David Cohen decided unexpectedly to end Bar-Lev's police service. In a statement to the media about a round of appointments expected at the police, Cohen wrote that Bar-Lev, then southern district commander, was retiring from the force.

Bar-Lev accused Cohen of driving him out of the force for personal reasons, after he had refused to go for a year's study in the United States.

He was forced to take a leave of absence and end his police service. He hired attorney Yaakov Neeman, today the justice minister, and appealed to the High Court of Justice against his dismissal.