Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett responded Monday afternoon to a report claiming police targeted a number of ministry officials, prominent businessmen, and social activists for unauthorized 'phishing' operations with the NSO Group's Pegasus spyware.
In a statement released Monday afternoon, Bennett touted the Pegasus spyware as a key "tool" in Israel's efforts to combat terrorism and crime, while expressing concern regarding its possible use against Israeli citizens and public servants.
“If the reports are true, this is a very serious situation. This tool [Pegasus], and other similar software, are very important tools in the struggle against terrorism and against serious crime. But they were never intended for use in broad ‘phishing’ efforts against Israeli citizens or against public figures in the State of Israel.”
“Therefore, we need to understand exactly what happened. Right now, the Deputy Attorney General, Amit Merari, is carefully and quickly examining the matter. Soon the government will appoint a new Attorney General, and I would say that it is advantageous that [the new AG] won’t be from within the system. She was not a part of the system during the years in question [when Pegasus was used], and therefore I assume that once she is appointed, we can sit down and get advice and we will understand how things really look, and we won’t leave the public without a response.”
“We understand the severity of the matter. As I said, we will not leave this unanswered. Apparently, very serious things happened here. We will wait a few more hours, consult with the ministers in question and with the new Attorney General.”