Benny Gantz to meet with French defense minister for security dialogue

Among other matters, they will discuss the NSO affair.

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.

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

“On Wednesday (28.07) Defense Minister, Benny Gantz will travel to France and will meet with Minister of the Armed Forces of the French Republic, Florence Parly to conduct a strategic, security dialogue. Minister Gantz will discuss the crisis in Lebanon and the developing agreement with Iran. He will also update the Minister on the topic of NSO,” the statement said.

Gantz’s visit was apparently planned about a month ago, regardless of the NSO issue, but rather, within the context of the crisis in Lebanon and the Iranian nuclear agreement – topics that Gantz and Parly discussed during a call.

The Defense Ministry oversees commercial exports of spyware and cyber-surveillance technologies such as Pegasus.
A global investigation published last week by 17 media organizations, led by the Paris-based non-profit journalism group Forbidden Stories, said that Pegasus had been used in attempted and successful hacks of smartphones belonging to journalists, government officials and human rights activists.

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, it said, was intended for use only by government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to fight terrorism and crime, the company said.

France’s foreign ministry said on Monday that Iran was endangering the chance of concluding an accord with world powers if it did not return to the negotiating table soon. Attempts to revive the 2015 accord, after then-President Donald Trump abandoned it in 2018, have been slow to make progress.

Israel is concerned that a revival of the deal may eventually allow Tehran to acquire atomic weapons.

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