Russia says not planning to interfere in Israeli elections

Kremlin spokesperson Dimitri Paskov comments come in the wake of Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman's announcement that a foreign government "is trying to intervene – and I know what I am talking about.”

January 9, 2019 13:23
2 minute read.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R)

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R). (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)


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Russia denied accusations that it has plans to intervene in the Israeli elections, Kremlin spokesperson Dimitri Paskov told Russia's Interfax New Agency Wednesday.

Paskov's comments come in the wake of Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman's announcement that a foreign government "is trying to intervene – and I know what I am talking about.”

Argaman said that he does not yet know the political purpose of the foreign country, the name of which is still under gag order, which is trying to interfere with Israeli elections.

Zionist Union MK Revital Swid responded to the news by stating that she had been one of the early public officials warning of cyber interference in elections and was concerned that more still needed to be done.

Earlier Tuesday, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira issued a warning that he would be reviewing how well election authorities protect their systems and relevant political parties from hacking or social media manipulation.

Generally, there are two primary threats of cyber interference in an election. One is hacking the actual election infrastructure to alter the vote count, which is rare and difficult to do. The second, which has become more common and which Russia did in the US, is manipulative, sophisticated social media campaigns promoting fake news stories and themes designed to support a favored candidate.

In the US, Russia tried to support US President Donald Trump’s election, though there is no clear evidence that its influence was decisive in his election win.

Last year, IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot warned the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee of potential future cyberattack election threats.

In recent interviews with The Jerusalem Post, both ex-Israeli cyber chief Buky Carmeli, and former government agent and Chief Technology Officer Amit Meltzer said that even as Russia and China may be using cyber to collect intelligence in Israel, it is doubtful either would provoke a crisis.

In contrast, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has named Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas in the past as all trying to hack various aspects of the country.

The Central Elections Committee does not fall under the jurisdiction of the National Cybersecurity Authority.

Various Knesset committees have held meetings to discuss cyberattacks and attempts to spread false information in order to influence the elections, the most recent of which was six weeks ago.

Meretz chairwoman Tamar Zandberg said in response to Argaman’s remarks that: “We demand security forces make sure [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is not stealing the election for his friend, Bibi the dictator.”

The Israel Security Agency responded to the report on Tuesday evening and published a statement clarifying that the State of Israel and the intelligence community have the tools and capabilities to locate, monitor and thwart attempts of foreign influence in Israeli elections, if they do exist. They added that the Israeli defense establishment is fully capable of allowing democratic and free elections in the State of Israel.

Yonah Jeremy Bob and Lahav Harkov contributed to this story.

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