The former IDF chief-of-staff’s party accuses Prime Minister Netanyahu of providing Israel’s Channel 12 with the story to hurt the challenger ahead of the Knesset election.
Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz called upon Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit on Sunday to carry out an immediate inquiry to discover who is behind a Channel 12 television report that Iranian intelligence hacked his phone.
Blue and White is accusing the Likud party of leaking the story to embarrass Gantz. It charges that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exploited his access to sensitive information to make it public in the lead-up to the election.
Netanyahu denies it, posting to his Facebook page, “The Shin Bet confirmed that the prime minister didn’t know a thing in the matter of Gantz. Also senior journalists are saying this.”
According to the report, agents from Israel’s internal security service, or Shin Bet, met with Gantz, a former Israeli Army chief-of-staff now turned politician, and informed him a number of weeks ago that his cell phone had been hacked by Iranian intelligence services.
They alerted him that everything in the phone, including the contents of personal conversations, could now be made public and used against him as he competes to become Israel’s next prime minister.
There are also rumors that the phone contained “embarrassing information,” leading Israeli media to speculate as to what it might be, with reports suggesting it is of an “intimate” nature.
At a news conference on Friday during a tour of the Gaza-Israel border, Gantz, who is married, was asked if the reportedly embarrassing contents on his phone had anything to do with an extramarital relationship. He angrily dismissed the notion, and stated: “The State of Israel is more important to me than this nonsense.”
“Someone put out a political story, gossipy and completely imaginary,” he added at the press conference.
Israel’s Channel 12, which initially aired the the hacking report on Thursday, reported on Saturday, based on unnamed sources, that no sensitive security information had been breached from the phone, but that the contents, if made public, would personally embarrass Gantz.
The Shin Bet has not reacted publicly.
The Blue and White bloc, comprised of Gantz’s own party as well as two other factions headed by another former IDF chief Moshe Ya’alon and MK Yair Lapid, had taken the lead in some public opinion polls over the Likud, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
A poll encouraging to Blue and White, which had recently been dropping in the polls, was published on Thursday by the Maagar Mochot agency together with Israel Hayom and i24 news. It shows Blue and White’s lead as 33 to 26 seats in the 120-seat Knesset. The parliamentary ballot is scheduled for April 9.
Gantz served as military chief from 2011 to 2015. The Likud cites his support for the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, vehemently opposed by Netanyahu, and says that Tehran would prefer a victory by Gantz over Netanyahu in the upcoming election.
On Friday, Ya’alon insisted that Iran was not behind the hack.
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