The saga behind the Iranian phone hacking incident that has stoked the political war between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin and Netanyahu and his top challenger Benny Gantz continues to color the lead up to the April 9 elections.
Gantz has slammed several criminal probes against the Prime Minister as the “greatest security-related corruption in the history of the State of Israel.”
He called for further investigation by the Attorney General into recent allegations of Iranian hackers compromising his cell phone and for a state commission of inquiry to probe one of the corruption cases against the Premier referred to as the submarine affair after fresh allegations emerged he may have earned millions of shekels off the deal.
Gantz submitted a request for an “urgent examination” to the attorney general into the phone “hacking” incident, as it is cynically presented in the letter that suggests Netanyahu is responsible.
Although the appeal to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit does not mention Netanyahu by name, it says the trail of evidence leads to “a very specific office in Jerusalem.”
The request pointed out that ”leaks of an event with potentially security-related characteristics constitute a serious violation of state security.
“The more this leak was made from a political motive, the greater the damage to state security, the greater the breach of trust,” the letter read.
Fellow party member and former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon was more explicit in his indictment of the political establishment during an interview with Channel 13 news over the weekend.
“The Iranians are not behind the hack, they aren’t the ones attacking the prime minister’s rivals. Someone has degenerated the political system and is willing to sacrifice all values for political survival,” Ya’alon said.
“I know the defense establishment, and I also know the prime minister’s world,” he said starkly. “This did not come from the Shin Bet.”
“There is no basis for the operational briefings being held by the prime minister’s people,” Gantz’s Blue & White party said in a statement Friday adding that “the lies that have been distributed in bulk prove without a doubt who is behind the publication and why.”
Giving a press conference on the Gaza border Friday, Gantz dismissed the leaks as “political gossip.”
“I’m playing with people whose ethics are at the lowest points. I will continue,” he said. “There are two major events happening here: A war over democracy and ethics.”
Netanyahu’s Likud party responded on Friday denying its involvement in the publication of the incident.
On Saturday, the Likud published a campaign video that accused Iran of trying to interfere in the elections in order to ensure a Blue & White victory, despite the centrist party’s vow to take a tough stance against Tehran.
“The Shin Bet confirmed that the PM did not know anything about the Gantz matter and senior journalists have said so as well,” the Likud video said. “This is an attempt by Lapid and Gantz to distort the fact that the Iranian regime openly supports them.”
Although no sensitive information was discovered, unnamed security sources called it a “personal embarrassment” for the Blue & White leader, according to a Channel 12 news report.
At the same time, Channel 12 reported of Russian technology recently supplied to Iran that enables remote hacking of mobile devices without the user’s knowledge or interaction.
But on Friday a former Labor lawmaker and tech entrepreneur explained what he said was a planned Likud leak campaign against his political rivals.
“This is what’s going to happen with the story of Gantz’s phone: It’s just a cover story. In a few days more information will start coming out about it, that the Iranians are allegedly putting out through third parties, and then the Netanyahu campaign will just ‘make use’ of this information,” Erel Margalit wrote on Facebook Friday.
“They did this to Hillary Clinton, they did it in Brexit in Britain, and they did it to Macron in France,” he added, saying he warned a month earlier of such a scheme that was just the tip of the iceberg.
“Gantz’s phone is just the beginning. A perfect cover story. It’s not the last time [the phone] will be ringing with deeply damaging information. The battle over our democracy begins now.”
Shortly following the announcement of the snap elections, Israel’s national security services chief delivered a stark warning that a foreign nation would attempt to interfere via cyber-hacking.
“A foreign country intends to intervene in the Israeli elections and it will intervene,” Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman said at a public event held at the beginning of the year.
“At this stage, I cannot say for whom it will intervene or against whom. At this point, I do not know how to identify interests, but there will be interference by cyber hackers,” he said ominously.