The police planted spyware on the mobile phone of a key witness involved in former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s alleged corruption cases, prompting officials to demand a swift investigation into the allegations and a dismissal of the charges against him.
Aviad Glickman of Channel 13 revealed in his report on Wednesday evening that the police used the intrusive spyware to extract the contents of the smartphone of Shlomo Filber, a central witness involved in Netanyahu’s cases, without the required legal permission.
The extensive mobile content illegality obtained includes photos, phone numbers, correspondence history and use of applications, according to the report.
The incident is being dubbed the “Israeli Watergate Affair.”
Netanyahu is currently facing charges in the Jerusalem District Court in Cases 1000, 2000, and 4000, alleging bribery, breach of trust, and fraud.
Sources close to Netanyahu stated that the report “is an earthquake. The appalling revelations published about the police’s conduct in accompanying the prosecution in Netanyahu’s investigations are shocking. Police investigators have polluted the legal process and crossed every red line. The consequences are enormous.”
Responding to the reports, Member of Knesset Bezalel Smotrich called on the State Attorney’s Office to close Netanyahu’s cases.
“It’s time for a reckoning of the justice system and a cleaning stables at the Israel Police,” he stated.
MK Itamar Ben Gvir stated that “there is no escape from opening a criminal investigation against former police commissioner Roni Alshiekh who violated trust, acted fraudulently and tried to carry out a coup against the incumbent prime minister.”
He said he will contact the State Attorney on Thursday and demand a criminal investigation against Alshiekh.
MK Yariv Levin stated that the report is “an earthquake that should shock every citizen. The evidence regarding the use of spyware to eavesdrop on citizens, including senior government officials, is a huge Watergate affair, here in Israel.”
He listed the illegal measures allegedly used in the case and said they were “frightening” – eavesdropping and without a judge’s order, trampling on the privacy of witnesses, threats, serial extortion, withholding information, systematic and deliberate criminal leaks.
“Countless serious criminal offenses. An alarming use of the immense power vested in the heads of the law enforcement system to replace a publicly elected prime minister,” he charged.
“It is time to say in a clear voice: Netanyahu’s trial should be closed immediately. The investigation and prosecution proceedings are fundamentally tainted with a chain of serious offenses. The charges are precedent-setting and unfounded,” he added.
“This is important for Netanyahu, but it is much, much more important for each and every one of us, both on the right and on the left. This is not a political matter. It touches on the most basic personal freedoms, everything that distinguishes democracy from a dark dictatorship. This is a groundbreaking event. An event on a historical scale. An event that will decide the future of Israel,” he declared.
This report follows another expose by the Israeli Calcalist financial daily from last month according to which the Israel Police uses NSO’s Pegasus spyware to remotely hack into the phones of Israeli citizens without proper search or tapping orders. The operations were carried out by the Special Operations Team in the police Signet cyber unit, which activities are secretive.
According to the report, NSO’s Pegasus system was purchased by the police in December 2013, during the tenure of Commissioner Yohanan Danino, and became operational during the period of the subsequent commissioner, Alsheikh.
The police, which initially denied all the reports on the issue, stated Wednesday night after the report on Netanyahu’s case that “in accordance with the publication of the Attorney General’s decision regarding the appointment of the inspection team and the findings that arise, the Israel Police will cooperate fully and transparently in any inspection required by the appointed team, naturally we will not go into detail beyond that.”