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Israel defense minister to visit France to discuss NSO, Iran

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz takes part in a ceremony in the northern town of Metula by the Lebanon border, on July 4, 2021. (JALAA MAREY / AFP)

JERUSALEM – Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz will travel to
France this week to discuss spyware sold by Israeli cyber firm NSO that
was allegedly used to target French President Emmanuel Macron.

Macron’s
phone was on a list of targets that were possibly under surveillance by
Morocco, which used NSO Group’s Pegasus software, according to France’s
Le Monde newspaper. The French leader has called for an investigation.

A
global investigation published last week by 17 media organizations, led
by the Paris-based non-profit journalism group Forbidden Stories, said
NSO Group’s Pegasus had been used in attempted and successful hacks of smartphones
belonging to journalists, government officials and human rights
activists

Gantz will meet French Defense Minister Florence Parly on Wednesday, an official Israeli statement said.

“Gantz
will discuss the crisis in Lebanon and the developing agreement with
Iran. He will also update the minister on the topic of NSO,” it said.

Israel’s Defense Ministry oversees commercial exports of spyware and cyber-surveillance technologies like Pegasus.

A
global investigation published last week by 17 media organizations, led
by the Paris-based non-profit journalism group Forbidden Stories, said
Pegasus had been used in attempted and successful hacks of smartphones
belonging to journalists, government officials and human rights
activists.

ALSO READ: France’s Macron to hold cabinet meeting on Pegasus spyware case

Israel has since set up a senior inter-ministerial team to assess any possible misuse of the spyware.

NSO
rejected the reports, saying it was “full of wrong assumptions and
uncorroborated theories”. Pegasus is intended for use only by government
intelligence and law enforcement agencies to fight terrorism and crime,
the company said.

Gantz’s
trip was planned before the NSO affair and was meant to focus on the
growing economic crisis in Lebanon, which shares a border with Israel,
and on world powers’ efforts to resume a nuclear deal with Iran, Israeli
media said.

Israel
is concerned a revival of the deal may eventually allow its arch-foe
Tehran to acquire atomic weapons. Iran denies seeking the bomb. Attempts
to revive the 2015 accord, after then-President Donald Trump abandoned
it in 2018, have been slow to make progress.

READ MORE: France probes report Morocco had Macron’s phone hacked

France’s
foreign ministry said on Monday that Iran was endangering the chance of
concluding an accord with world powers over reviving the deal if it did
not return to the negotiating table soon.

Reference