Israel denies warning Russia against election hacking

The message, denied by Israel, was matter-of-fact and focused, and included a request to avoid any interference in the democratic process in Israel.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin walks past a TV camera during a parade marking Navy Day in Saint Petersburg, Russia July 31, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/MAXIM SHEMETOV)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin walks past a TV camera during a parade marking Navy Day in Saint Petersburg, Russia July 31, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/MAXIM SHEMETOV)

Israel has denied reports that it appealed to Russia to not interfere in the upcoming November elections.

According to the report, originally by Maariv, Israel is concerned with the possibility of external interference, particularly via cyber means. 

The appeal was allegedly apparently made between the Shin Bet and its Russian counterpart, following a directive from Prime Minister Yair Lapid. The message was matter-of-fact and focused, and included a request to avoid any interference in the democratic process in Israel.

In January 2019, on the eve of the first round of elections, former Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman appeared at Tel Aviv University warned of "a move that could affect the results of the elections and the intervention of a foreign country."

According to Argaman, the information he had was well-based. "I know what I'm talking about," he said, adding that "a foreign country intends to interfere in the elections in Israel, I don't know for whose benefit or against whom and I don't know what the political interest is, but this country intends to interfere in the elections and will do so through cyber means, such as hackers, etc."

"I don't know for whose benefit or against whom and I don't know what the political interest is, but this country intends to interfere in the elections and will do so through cyber means, such as hackers."

Former Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman
A voter holding her child casts her ballot in Jerusalem. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)A voter holding her child casts her ballot in Jerusalem. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

"The Shin Bet does not discuss the dialogue that takes place between it and intelligence organizations in the world," the Shin Bet said in response. 

The assumption adopted after Agraman said what he said was that he was referring to Russia. The Russian embassy issued a sweeping public denial of the possibility hinted at by the head of the Shin Bet.

How is Israel protecting itself?

Israel has invested a lot of effort in trying to build firewalls and defense against foreign interference of this kind, whether from Russia or from much more hostile directions, such as Iran.

Similar warnings have been issued in time for this election. Regarding Iran, there is no doubt in the security establishment that the Iranians would be happy to interfere in the elections and disrupt them if only to deepen the political chaos in Israel.