Israel Says Iran Hacked Ex-general Gantz’s Phone Ahead of Election

The cellphone of Benny Gantz, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s biggest rival and the chair of the political alliance Kahol Lavan, was hacked by Iranian intelligence, Israel’s Channel 12 reported Thursday evening. 

Gantz’s Kahol Lavan party confirmed the report in an official statement that read: "We don’t comment on issues that are at the heart of state security. It is important to emphasize that this incident happened four years after Gantz finished his tenure as chief of staff, [a fact] that raises many questions regarding the timing of the report’s publication."

– Haaretz Weekly Episode 18

Haaretz Weekly Episode 18Haaretz

>> Read more: Gantz: As PM, I would resume targeted killings in Gaza if Israel is attacked ■ Israeli cyber chief cautioned of election interference

According to the report by journalist Amit Segal, Gantz was approached by officials from Israel’s Shin Ben security service after announcing he was running for the premiership and was informed that his private device was breached.

The report said that the Shin Bet officials clarified to the ex-Israel Defense Forces chief that this meant Tehran had access to all kinds of information he may have stored on his phone: personal and professional. Gantz was also informed that this served as a potential security risk, seeing as Iran might unveil information it finds on his cellphone after the election, or tamper with the election process. 

Should Gantz win the election, the Shin Bet officials clarified, this could endanger him and Israel’s security. However, the former general was told that he could "proceed according to his own judgement." 

Due to the sensitivity of the report, Segal noted that the Israeli censor approved the publication of the information before he went on air. 

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The Shin Bet did not comment on the report. 

Concerns over foreign interference in the Israeli election have been voiced by Israeli officials in the lead-up to the ballot.

Last month Haaretz reported that Israel’s National Cyber Directorate warned that cyber attacks could influence the outcome of the upcoming election as early as last October, nearly three months prior to a similar statement made by the head of the Shin Bet.

The threat is the stream of assaults on state facilities, Yigal Unna said at a conference on high tech at the Sha’arei Mishpat Academic Center of Law and Science in Hod Hasharon, which was also attended by Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Israel Defense Forces’ outgoing Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot.

“They do not shut down a country, but they impact its ability to function: disrupting electricity, banks, finances and election results,” said Unna, adding that "Israel is in a fairly good condition in terms of its cyber security, but not in the best place in which it could be."