Israel Police Chief Finally to Be Named, After Months of Speculation

In surprise development, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch invites Ilan Franco to final interview along with two leading candidates

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch will put an end to months of speculation on Sunday when he announces his choice for the next police chief of Israel.

Franco, Danino and Ayalon- Moti Milrod and Olivier Fitoussi
Moti Milrod and Olivier Fitoussi

Aharonovitch was expected notify Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of his decision early in the morning and, at around 11 A.M., to meet with the three candidates - major generals Shahar Ayalon, Yohanan Danino and Ilan Franco. The official announcement will be made at a press conference called for 12:30 P.M.

Aharonovitch has made efforts to reach a quick decision, after a scandal erupted over sexual harassment and rape allegations involving another top candidate, Uri Bar-Lev. Bar-Lev has since withdrawn from the race and taken indefinite leave from the police.

The appointment process was delayed as Aharonovitch waited for Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to rule on whether Danino was a viable candidate, in light of his involvement in a botched operation that ended in the the murder of two police agents exposed by mobsters. Weinstein ruled late last week that the affair does not disqualify Danino, paving the way to proceed with the appointment.

Franco was reported in the media to have dropped out the race, after his name was mentioned in connection with the Bar-Lev affair. His associates noted yesterday that his invitation to meet with Aharonovitch this morning proved these reports were groundless. "The media were the ones who decided he wasn't in the race," one of them told Haaretz. "Franco has always said that he didn't submit his candidacy, but at the same time, he didn't rule out the possibility of being appointed. The impression that only Ayalon and Danino were candidates was created by the media, not the minister."

Meanwhile, the Movement for Quality Government has announced it will appeal to to the High Court of Justice against Weinstein's decision to allow Danino to remain in the race. The movement, which had earlier urged Weinstein to launch a criminal investigation into the case involving Danino and was refused, said in a statement yesterday that Weinstein's decision was a "dishonor to the institution of the State Comptroller and is extremely unreasonable." There are currently two complaints pending against Danino, once concerning his involvement in a botched operation that ended in the murder of two police informers in 2006 and the other involving his handling of the arrest of the Abergil brothers.

Weinstein announced his decision before the State Comptroller has finished investigating the complaints. The attorney general said in a statement on Thursday that he had investigated the complaints against Danino, together with top officials in his office, and had reviewed materials provided by the State Comptroller's office. He said the decision was made in conjunction with State Prosecutor Moshe Lador and that officials from the prosecutor's office with knowledge of the two cases do not believe there was anything amiss in Danino's conduct.

Sources in the State Comptroller's office told Haaretz that they were infuriated by Weinstein's decision and bewildered by the speed with which it was handed down. They said the comptroller was in the middle of an intensive investigation into the complaints against Danino and that it was unclear why Weinstein rushed to make the call, when it was possible to wait another few months with the appointment of a new commissioner.