JERUSALEM, July 19 (Reuters) – A liberal party in Israel’s governing coalition said on Monday it would ask the Defence Ministry about exports of Israeli spyware that media reports have linked to hacking of phones of journalists, civil servants and rights activists worldwide.
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, head of the Meretz party and a member of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s decision-making security cabinet, told reporters he would meet Defence Minister Benny Gantz on Thursday to discuss the exports by NSO Group.
The Defence Ministry, which licenses the exports, did not immediately comment.
An investigation by 17 media organisations published on Sunday said NSO’s spyware was used in attempted and successful hacks of 37 smartphones belonging to journalists, government officials and rights activists. Reuters was not able to verify the accusations independently.
NSO has denied what it called “the false allegations” raised by the media organizations and said it sells technology only to law enforcement and intelligence agencies of vetted governments in order to fight terrorism and crime.
Speaking during a televised Meretz faction meeting, lawmaker Mossi Raz called on the party to demand that Israel halt NSO exports, which he likened to “exporting weaponry, which is forbidden to non-democratic countries”.
But another Meretz lawmaker, former Israeli military deputy chief Yair Golan, was more circumspect, saying the reporting on NSO “looks tendentious, with a commercial motivation” and adding: “It is not just NSO that does such things.”
(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Maayan Lubell)
Photo Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (C) chairs the weekly cabinet meeting, as Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (L) looks on in Jerusalem, 19 July 2021. EPA-EFE/GIL COHEN-MAGEN / POOL