Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Wednesday arrived for a 10-hour visit to France and told his counterpart, French Defense Minister Florence Parly, that President Macron’s phone had not been hacked by the Israeli company NSO’s Pegasus software, nor were the phones of French MPs. He told his host that Israel was taking the spying allegations against the Pegasus software seriously.
Gantz clarified to the French that Israel operates in accordance with international conventions, is subject to orderly licenses, and gives cyber licenses to countries only, and only to fight terrorism or crime.
France, which has experienced severe terrorist attacks on its soil, is well aware of the value of technological tools in the war on terror. Gantz clarified to the French that the responsibility for the proper use of the software under the license lies first and foremost with the countries that purchased it.
Gantz informed Minister Parly that hacking the devices of senior political figures in France is prohibited under the terms of the license granted, and in the event that any deviations are discovered, Israel intends to act in strict accordance with the terms of the license. He also told Parly that Israeli security officials had visited NSO’s office on Wednesday and that “Israel is investigating the allegations thoroughly.”
Israel’s Defense Ministry issued a statement saying: “Minister Gantz addressed the topic of NSO and stated that Israel is taking the allegations seriously. He noted that the State of Israel approves the export of cyber products exclusively to governmental entities, for lawful use and only to prevent and investigate crime and counter-terrorism.”
On the subject of Lebanon, the Israeli Defense Minister presented to his hosts maps with real Hezbollah targets that are at the heart of a civilian population and explained the complexity involved in avoiding civilian casualties if and when war broke out.
Gantz said that assistance to Lebanon should be conditioned on avoiding the boosting of Hezbollah’s military capabilities, especially strengthening the accuracy of its hundreds of thousands of rockets which are trained on Israel, and the use of donated funds for terrorist purposes.
A source in the Israeli delegation said that the defense minister expressed an Israeli willingness to provide any assistance to Lebanon or to the countries seeking to assist this failed state, provided that the assistance does not include arms and the Iranian-backed rocket precision projects.
The recent heating of Israel’s northern border also came up at the meeting and the Israeli defense minister covered a series of hostile engagements with Lebanon, including rockets that were fired last week at a civilian Israeli population in the north.