Albania's prime minister met with Israeli experts in cybersecurity during a visit to the Jewish state this week to discuss protecting Albania’s national infrastructure following several Iranian hacks against his country.
Edi Rama was welcomed to Jerusalem by Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid who noted that Iran is a “shared threat" to both nations.
“We saw this during the recent Iranian cyberattacks against Albania. Israel will assist as much as possible in the effort against Iran. We see this as a national interest and a historical obligation,” Lapid said.
In September, Albania cut diplomatic relations with Iran following Iranian cyberattacks against its governmental infrastructure.
“This extreme response … is fully proportionate to the gravity and risk of the cyberattack that threatened to paralyze public services, erase digital systems and hack into state records, steal government intranet electronic communication, and stir up chaos and insecurity in the country,” Rama said.
A few days later, Israel offered its cybertechnology expertise to Albania.
Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied any Iranian involvement in the cyberattacks on Albania, stating that Iran is “one of the target countries of cyberattacks on its critical infrastructure” and, therefore, “rejects and condemns any use of cyberspace as a tool to attack the critical infrastructure of other countries.”
However, few Western observers believed Iran, and the Biden administration stated its support for the Albanian government, imposing new sanctions on the Iranian regime in September.
“We will not tolerate Iran’s increasingly aggressive cyber activities,” U.S. Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said in an official statement.
On Monday, Rama met with Israel’s National Cyber Directorate chief Gaby Portnoy and several significant Israeli tech companies.
“Iran is not paying a high-enough price for its incessant attempts to indiscriminately undermine civilian cyberspace. The position Albania took in condemning and imposing sanctions on Iran conveys the message that aggressive actions have a price. This position must be maintained,” Portnoy said. “Cooperation between countries provides a protective belt against these attempts and others.”
Albania has good relations and a unique history with Israel. During the Holocaust, Muslim Albanians saved Jewish refugees, with around 2,000 Jews seeking refuge in Albania during World War II. Albania is one of few Muslim-majority countries in a largely “Christian” Europe.
“Albania has a special place in Jewish history. The values and principles of the Albanian people led its citizens to risk their lives in order to save Jews during the Holocaust,” Lapid said. “They gave them shelter and found ways to smuggle them away from the Nazis.”
Following the collapse of its Communist regime in the 1990s, Albania has taken a pro-Western stance and joined NATO.
Israeli Ambassador to Albania Galit Peleg noted that Albania recently protested against anti-Israel bias at the international Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which has 57 member states.
“Three weeks ago, the 57 states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. A resolution condemning Israel came out, and the Albanian ambassador said, 'this doesn’t represent us,'” Peleg said.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.