Jerusalem police chief slams reports of quarrel with Alsheich

Jerusalem police chief slams reports of quarrel with Alsheich

Israel’s top cop was said to have been working to undermine Deputy Commissioner Yoram Halevi’s bid to replace him

File: Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich (2nd-L) and Jerusalem police chief Yoram Halevi (2nd-R) seen during a briefing at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, on June 18, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
File: Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich (2nd-L) and Jerusalem police chief Yoram Halevi (2nd-R) seen during a briefing at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, on June 18, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Jerusalem’s police chief on Friday lambasted media reports claiming that Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich has been trying to undermine his candidacy for the country’s next top cop.

While touring Jerusalem’s iconic Mahane Yehuda market with Alsheich, Deputy Commissioner Yoram Halevi said the rumors were wrong, and “were hurting me and my family.”

The Israel Police is a “strong organization. No one is undermining anyone else. We’re trying to be as fair as we can be, and I hope all the reports of the past, or at least from recent times, are untrue. If they’re true, that’s terrible. This kind of talk drags us down, whether we want it to or not. It hurts the officers, it hurts the entire Israel Police.”

Halevi’s comments came after media reports surfaced last week that he had performed poorly in polygraph tests meant to vet candidates for the top job in the police as Alsheich’s term comes to an end in December.

According to the reports, four deputy commissioners are in the running for the job: Halevi from Jerusalem; southern district chief Motti Cohen; Tel Aviv police chief David Bitan; and Moshe Edri, a former head of the Tel Aviv police and director general of the Public Security Ministry.

Alsheich reportedly ordered all four to undergo lie-detector tests in order to help zero in on incidents or connections that could embarrass the police if they are selected as the next chief. According to recent reports citing leaks from within the police, Cohen and Bitan passed the tests with flying colors, Edri has yet to take it, and Halevi had unspecified compromising issues raised about his record.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (C), Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich (2nd-R), Jerusalem Police Chief Yoram Halevi (R) and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (2nd-L) attend the opening ceremony of the new police station in the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem on May 7, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The purported leaks have raised speculation that Alsheich, who still hopes to be asked by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan to stay on the job for another year, was looking to torpedo Halevi’s candidacy in the belief that the Jerusalem police chief is the current frontrunner.

Halevi denied the reports to reporters who accompanied him and Alsheich on their tour of the central Jerusalem market.

“My relationship with the commissioner is positive and professional, the relationship of a commander and his subordinate,” Halevi said. “When this kind of talk starts, it hurts people, hurts their privacy, hurts their family, hurts their environment, and certainly hurts the organization over the years.”

Alsheich also slammed the reports. “All the candidates for the commissionership are worthy of the job,” he said. “As soon as [the political echelons] announce that they’re replacing the commissioner, any candidate who wants to do so will enter the race. I assume they will ask my opinion, too, and I’ll give it then.”

He added: “I’ve said time and again, I’m a servant only as long as my service is called for. If they give me another year, I will serve. If they don’t, I will find a new calling.”

Alsheich insisted the reports were not coming from the police.

“Contrary to what’s been reported, we’re not creating this gossip. We’re not the source of this chatter about senior officers in the media, and we vehemently reject this kind of gossip. Unfortunately, there are all sorts of interested parties who are trying to inject these questions into the discussion. It’s not part of the discourse within the Israel Police. I’m not thinking about it, and I don’t intend to start thinking about it. I think that’s the appropriate response.”

Over the weekend, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said she would ask Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to launch an investigation if it turns out the polygraph results were leaked from the police.

The decision to submit candidates to such tests follows the embarrassment Erdan experienced in 2015 when his choice of retired IDF brigadier general Gal Hirsch for the country’s next police chief was stymied after then-attorney general Yehudah Weinstein said he had to investigate claims against Hirsch. Hirsch was later investigated over a graft probe in Rishon Lezion and another over his defense advisory work in Georgia.

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