The national police chief began suspecting that the head of the Jerusalem District was bypassing the chain of command and communicating directly with the prime minister during the placement of metal detectors outside the Temple Mount in July, sources told Haaretz over the weekend.
Sources had told Haaretz Thursday that Roni Alsheich was convinced that Yoram Halevy, the Jerusalem District commander and the leading candidate to succeed Alsheich, spoke with Benjamin Netanyahu without Alsheich’s permission and without briefing him.
According to the sources, who requested anonymity, Alsheich has asked Halevy to cease his contacts with the prime minister and is not sure the contacts have ended, though both Netanyahu and Halevy have denied the claims. Alsheich, for his part, has only denied that he briefed reporters on the issue.
The sources say Alsheich began suspecting Halevy last summer. On July 14, three men from the Arab Israeli city of Umm al-Fahm fired at police officers at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, killing two. In response, Israel closed the compound, reopening it two days later after installing metal detectors near the entrance.
The move provoked a clash in the security cabinet and among government ministers, the police and the Shin Bet security service. After a Palestinian stabbed to death three members of a family in the settlement of Halamish on July 21, the inner cabinet decided to remove the metal detectors.
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The recommendation to place the detectors at the entrance to the Temple Mount was made by Halevy; Alsheich supported the move.
But Alsheich reportedly learned that Halevy was receiving instructions from the Prime Minister’s Office that conflicted with the decisions reached in official meetings, without informing Alsheich and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan through the chain of command. Alsheich began to suspect Halevy of improper conduct and later obtained information that led him to believe that the Jerusalem commander communicated with Netanyahu both directly and through a third party.
Halevy denies any secret contacts with Netanyahu behind Alsheich’s back.
He told journalists during a visit to the Western Wall Plaza in Jerusalem on Friday morning: “Don’t do this to me, I’m asking you – I have already commented on it and I said that it never happened; there was nothing and there will be nothing.”
Last week sources said Alsheich believed that Netanyahu and Halevy conducted talks through a third party and in some cases also met without that person’s knowledge. Alsheich was reportedly furious with Halevy and asked both him and the mediator to stop.
Associates of Alsheich say he does not let anyone give orders that don’t go through the police.
Senior police commanders consider Halevy a respected and experienced officer, making him the most likely person to replace Alsheich, who is stepping down soon.
But relations between the two senior officers have been tense recently, in part because of the accusations. The Prime Minister’s Office said the claims were “a complete and tendentious lie.”