Southern Police Chief Challenges Dichter, Top Cop Over His Dismissal

The gap between the accounts of National Police Commissioner David Cohen and the former Southern District commander Uri Bar-Lev over the latter's dismissal last year continues to grow. Yesterday it emerged that Bar-Lev enlisted the help of former commissioner Shlomo Aharonishki and former public security minister Tzachi Hanegbi in his campaign against what he believes was his wrongful dismissal in October.

In letters to the High Court of Justice Aharonishki and Hanegbi denied Cohen's claims that Bar-Lev attempted, as early as 2003, to dictate his appointments within the force, and that he took extended home leave at taxpayers' expense.

In an affidavit to the court Bar-Lev stated that in 2002-2003 he served as deputy Central District commander, under Yehuda Bachar, succeeding him in July 2003 when Bachar resigned to run in local elections. In December 2003 Benny Kaniak was tapped as Central District commander. Bar-Lev went on vacation for a few weeks, after which he was appointed to serve on the National Security Council.

In his letter to the High Court Aharonishki wrote that Bar-Lev was not immediately given a new position after Kaniak's appointment "due to technical reasons only," adding, "Nothing in the process implied insubordination or the waste of public funds."

In his letter, Hanegbi wrote, "I do not remember Aharonishki expressing anything to me about conflicts between him and Bar-Lev."

Bar-Lev stated that Cohen had tried to convince the High Court of a pattern of behavior, and that the police chief portrayed him to Hanegbi and Aharonishki as a "rebel."

"The commissioner's claims, as they appear in the affidavit, are untrue," wrote Bar-Lev, adding that the statements were intended to tarnish his reputation before the court. "Against the commissioner's account stands not only my version of events, but also the versions of those in direct contact with the matter," namely Hanegbi and Aharonishki. Bar-Lev said that at that time Cohen served as head of the police's operational division and had no direct knowledge of his own circumstances.

Bar-Lev also claimed Aharonishki told him that even before Cohen filed his affidavit to the High Court, Shaul Gordon, the police's legal adviser, contacted him with questions about the matter.

Bar-Lev said Aharonishki told Gordon what was contained in his letter, but "Despite that, [Cohen] chose to declare things that simply weren't true, and about which he had no personal knowledge, and to hide from the court the conversation between Gordon and Aharonishki."

Bar-Lev said Public Security Minister Avi Dichter negotiated with Cohen in bad faith, and that Yochanan Danino's appointment as Southern District commander violated the High Court's orders to maintain the status quo. Bar-Lev said the selection created "facts on the ground" that would make it impossible for him to return to his former position.

According to Bar-Lev, Dichter and Cohen presented to the High Court a flawed picture of the circumstances surrounding his dismissal. He said their claims that it was made following a "crisis of confidence," "insubordination" and "a lack of integration" were utterly baseless.

In response, Dichter said his office would deal with the matter with Bar-Lev and the High Court, "and not in the pages of the newspapers."