Benny Gantz, chairman of the Israel Resilience Party.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit must investigate who leaked sensitive information about Iranian intelligence hacking into Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz’s telephone, party officials said Saturday night.
The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) informed Gantz of the hacking four months ago, but it was only leaked to Channel 12 on Thursday. Blue and White officials said the timing of the leak was intended to influence the April 9 election.
The complaint to Mandelblit was filed to him early Sunday morning by attorney Oded Gazit, it says the source of the leak must be determined. Blue and White candidate Moshe Ya'alon called the scandal "Bibi-gate" in morning radio interviews.
“This leak was a grave incident of leaking classified information from someone who received the information and used it to maximize its impact on the election, so there is no choice but to have the attorney-general probe the leak,” Blue and White candidate Zvi Hauser, who is a former cabinet secretary, told The Jerusalem Post
on Saturday night.
The attorney-general’s office said on Friday that Mandelblit had not yet received a formal request for an investigation, but if he would, the request would be seriously considered. A former Shin Bet official said the agency was waiting for orders from Mandelblit. Journalist Amit Segal, who broke the story, said he did not want to respond to the request to probe the leak.
Gantz took questions from journalists for the first time since entering politics on December 27. More than half the questions in the press conference at the Gaza periphery were about the phone incident.
“Someone put out a delusional, gossipy, political story,” Gantz said. “There have been no threats and no extortion. There was nothing important on the phone. Someone has been feeding you political spin.”
When Gantz was asked about whether there was information on the phone about a relationship with a woman, Gantz, who is married, got angry and vigorously denied it, saying: “The State of Israel is more important to me than this nonsense.”
Blue and White’s number two candidate, Yair Lapid, told Channel 12 on Saturday night that the phone story was “invented by Netanyahu,” who he said wanted to distract the public from his corruption. He said Netanyahu was the only person in the country who had both the access and motivation.
The Prime Minister’s Office said Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman did not tell Netanyahu that Gantz’s phone had been hacked. The Likud accused Gantz and Lapid of “panicking” and falsely accusing the Shin Bet and the Mossad of being behind leaks to Netanyahu.
The Likud released a campaign ad that says Iran is interfering in the election, because the Islamic republic wants Gantz and Lapid to be prime minister.
A source close to Netanyahu denied a report on Channel 1 that the prime minister is seriously considering agreeing to debate Gantz ahead of the election.
Labor leader Avi Gabbay also criticized Likud on Saturday night in an interview with Channel 12’s Meet the Press
program. Gabbay said he was disturbed that when Netanyahu gathered top Likud candidates for a picture used for campaign ads, all the candidates were Ashkenazi men.
“I cannot begin to understand why people of Sephardi backgrounds see Netanyahu’s behavior and still vote for him,” Gabbay said. “Sephardim who respect their parents and their heritage and want their children to be able to prime minister of Israel cannot vote for Netanyahu and his family, who take Sephardi candidates out of their picture. This is an act of racism.”Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.
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