All Israel

Government approves investigative commission regarding use of controversial spyware by Israel Police

Some argue such a probe could undermine police efforts to tackle crime wave in Israel's Arab sector

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a cabinet meeting, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, July 30, 2023. (Photo: Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

Sunday afternoon, Israel's cabinet voted to approve Justice Minister Yariv Levin's proposal to establish a government commission of inquiry into the police use of the controversial Pegasus spyware against citizens.

According to the investigative powers it received, the committee will be able to summon those involved in the scandal to testify and to examine the conduct of the police and the State Prosecutor's Office in all matters related to procurement, surveillance, and collection of information about civilians and officers using the spyware.

Following the vote to approve, Minister Levin said, "The spyware affair is one of the most serious exposed in recent years. Exposing the truth in the matter, and preventing similar incidents of fatal infringement of the right of Israeli citizens to privacy, is vital and extremely important."

Levin also said that he modified his original proposal following input from the heads of the Mossad and Shin Bet security agencies.

The justice minister had announced his intention last week to set up the official commission of inquiry.

Police, security officials and even the attorney general reportedly opposed such a probe.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not vote on the matter due to a conflict of interest concerning his ongoing graft trial.

Israeli intelligence, including the Internal Security Agency (ISA), or Shin Bet, reportedly fear that “operational secrets” would be revealed to the public as a result of a probe. An unnamed police official told Ynet news that the investigation could undermine police efforts to tackle the ongoing crime wave within the Arab-Israeli community.

“Police under a committee is the last thing we need in these difficult days and while fighting crime, especially in the Arab community,” the official said.

“Such a committee will stall the restoration of the technological tools for many more months. The committee will cause a difficult situation in the SIGINT division, in terms of the fact that people will have to hire lawyers,” he argued.

The controversial Pegasus tool enables mobile phone hacking and secret listening to conversations. It was developed by the Israeli IT surveillance company NSO, which also sold its technology to the FBI.

Intelligence services worldwide have long used spyware against terrorists. However, in January 2022, it was revealed that Israel Police had also used spyware to spy on regular Israeli citizens.

Among those allegedly spied upon were family members and associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a report from Calcalist last year.

In late 2021, the U.S. decided to blacklist several Israeli cyber firms, including NSO for its controversial spyware usage worldwide.

“NSO Group and Candiru were added to the Entity List based on evidence that these entities developed and supplied spyware to foreign governments,” the United States Commerce Department stated.

“The spyware tools were used to maliciously target government officials, journalists, businesspeople, activists, academics and embassy workers,” according to the statement.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

All Israel
Receive latest news & updates
    A message from All Israel News
    Help us educate Christians on a daily basis about what is happening in Israel & the Middle East and why it matters.
    For as little as $5, you can support ALL ISRAEL NEWS, a non-profit media organization that is supported by readers like you.
    Donate to ALL ISRAEL NEWS
    Popular Articles
    Latest Stories