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Israel Minister to Discuss Pegasus Scandal in France Visit

Israel Minister to Discuss Pegasus Scandal in France Visit

Tuesday, 27 July, 2021 - 17:45
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz. (AP file photo)

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz will meet his French counterpart in Paris this week for talks that will include an “update” on the Pegasus spyware scandal, his office said Tuesday.

A ministry statement said Gantz will leave Wednesday for talks with French Defense Minister Florence Parly.

Topics will include the crisis in Lebanon, nuclear negotiations with Iran and the Pegasus malware made by Israeli firm NSO, which was allegedly used to target President Emmanuel Macron.

In Paris, a defense ministry source called the meeting “long-scheduled”.

Parly would seek “to find out what knowledge the Israeli government had of the activities of NSO’s clients, and what arrangements were put in place -- and will be in the future -- to prevent these highly intrusive tools being hijacked”, the source said.

Pegasus can switch on a phone’s camera or microphone and harvest its data, and is at the center of a storm after a list of about 50,000 potential surveillance targets was leaked to human rights groups.

Amnesty International and French media nonprofit Forbidden Stories collaborated with a clutch of media companies, including the Washington Post, the Guardian and Le Monde, to analyze and publish the list.

Macron had to change his phone and number.

Israel’s defense ministry must approve NSO exports given the sensitive nature of the sector.

Israel’s defense establishment has set up a committee to review the firm’s business, including the process through which export licenses are granted.

Pegasus’s list of alleged targets includes at least 600 politicians, 180 journalists, 85 human rights activists and 65 business leaders.

NSO insists its software is intended for use only in fighting terrorism and other crimes, and says it exports to 45 countries.

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