NSO Revealed As Informal Arm Of The Israeli Government? – analysis

Is it time for the Israeli government to finally come out and more formally admit that the NSO Group has (allegedly) been working with it behind the scenes both in terms of normalization initiatives and in terms of fighting terrorism?

The New York Times reported Monday night that Israel is preparing to launch a campaign to convince the United States to remove NSO from its Commerce Department blacklist.

But this report should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed the news about NSO in recent years.

In July, Defense Minister Benny Gantz took it upon himself to personally travel to Paris to discuss on behalf of the NSO with French President Emmanuel Macron and make it clear that the cybercrime firm was not spying on him.

This came after 17 media organizations around the world trashed NSO in the public eye over allegations that autocratic regimes had used their spyware to spy on human rights activists, journalists and foreign officials.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett meets with French President Emmanuel Macron in Glasgow (credit: CHAIM TZACH / GPO)

Last week, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Macron met at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, and Bennett vowed to be more transparent about the controversy and try to smooth the matter over with the French prime minister.

The conclusion was that the Prime Minister himself was personally intervening on behalf of the NSO.

In November 2019, the Jerusalem Post reported that the Israeli government could be using NSO to conduct business and improve relations with moderate Sunni countries, later identified as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman.

If Israel could help those governments with cyber tools to fight jihadists, those governments could be more dependent on Jerusalem and more willing to normalize.

When Amnesty International tried to get the Tel Aviv District Court to cancel the NSO’s export license in January 2020, there were around two dozen Defense Ministry officials and other government officials in court to jump to its defense.

These were more officials than those who went with former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the High Court of Justice in 2016 to fight to preserve his important natural gas policy.

Thus, it has become clear for some time how deeply involved the Israeli government was in NSO and its ongoing operations.

What has changed to bring the relationship more to light is that NSO is now blacklisted by the US Department of Commerce and was also targeted on Monday for its spyware that was allegedly used to hack into Palestinian cell phones. .

This second element is significant because it fits into the saga about Israel declaring six Palestinian human rights NGOs as terrorist groups, with respect to which Jerusalem and Washington are already in the middle of a kind of Cold War.

This Cold War is due both to Israel’s move against specific groups and to the way it collected and sometimes collects evidence through harsh or enhanced interrogations.

The Biden administration is trying to frame the United States as a global beacon for human rights.

Therefore, you are not interested in the confessions of Palestinian human rights activists who double as money launderers for the terrorist group PFLP if the admissions come from detainees who were interrogated in painful positions, with sleep deprivation and certain tactics of war. used against them.

Israeli officials will also have noted that just days after the blacklisting decision, a US federal appeals court rejected NSO’s sovereign immunity claim from being sued by Facebook.

That appeals court had been moving slowly on the issue for some time and there is nothing coincidental in its swift move to slap NSO within days of the US Department of Commerce’s decision.

With two separate branches of the US government declaring legal and economic war on the NSO, the Jewish state will have a lot of work to do to try to turn around that opposition.

There are indications that Jerusalem will argue to the Biden administration that NSO spyware has been used to combat Palestinian terrorists and also terrorists targeting the US.

This could be the only argument with a chance of success.

Washington supports Israeli normalization with Muslim countries, but has shown no willingness to admit secondary issues or infuriate third parties to further advance the process.

Furthermore, the four states that Israel has normalized with have come a long way since NSO technology may have been one of the few incentives to move forward.

So will Jerusalem be able to gather enough evidence of past and future counterterrorism aid to the US (and not just Europe) to make NSO and Biden worth eliminating while enduring certain criticism from the global human rights community? ?

Will Israel have to negotiate the removal of the six Palestinian NGOs from its terrorist list in order to obtain a pardon from the NSO or will some other horse swap take place, such as with regard to the US consulate in East Jerusalem that Biden wants reopen for the Palestinians?

Wherever the talks take, it is becoming less and less feasible for the government to try to hide the nature of its special connection to the NSO.


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