NSO Affair: Will Israeli public lose confidence in law enforcement?

People cannot circumvent the law while enforcing the law, said President Isaac Herzog at the annual B'Sheva conference in Jerusalem: This is not an easy day."

 Israeli president Isaac Herzog speaks during a Conference of the 'Besheva' group in Jerusalem, on February 7, 2022.  (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Israeli president Isaac Herzog speaks during a Conference of the 'Besheva' group in Jerusalem, on February 7, 2022.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Following the social earthquake created by investigative journalist Tomer Ganon in Calcalist, the financial supplement of Yediot Aharonot in which he listed a significant number of public figures whose phones were hacked by police using Pegasus spyware, President Isaac Herzog, who was the opening speaker at the annual Jerusalem Conference of the B'Sheva Group on Sunday, stated that this was an issue which he could not ignore.

"This is not an easy day," he told a mostly religious right-wing audience who crowded into the ballroom of the Vert Hotel. People cannot circumvent the law while enforcing the law, he noted. People charged with upholding the law must be more vigilant in doing so – more than anyone else, Herzog insisted. "We cannot abandon our democracy," he declared. "We cannot abandon our police. We must not lose public confidence in them. This demands a deep and thorough investigation."

Although a former leader of a left-wing political party, Herzog when he entered the ballroom, received a standing and sustained ovation, not only as a sign of respect for the office that he holds but also because of his pedigree and his visit to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron last Hanukkah.

In fact, Herzog himself hinted at this when he said that his connection to the Religious Zionist movement is no secret and spans back for generations. Mutual Zionist values are expounded by graduates of National Religious institutions, he said, adding that these are among the most meaningful to the state and to Israeli society.

These values serve as the foundation for the State of Israel, he said, particularly for the younger generation of people who have settled the land all over the country, especially in Judea and Samaria.

Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev and Israel Police Chief Kobi Shabtai attend a ceremony of Israel Police (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev and Israel Police Chief Kobi Shabtai attend a ceremony of Israel Police (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Herzog was particularly mindful of those of the young generation of the settlement movement who over the past year have experienced the threat of terror and continue to do so today. "Israel will not allow anyone to threaten her citizens – not in any place – not at any time. We will remain determined, and we will triumph," said Herzog.

Continuing in this vein, Herzog said that defending the sovereignty of Israel and guaranteeing peace for her citizens was a number one priority, which at the same time was dependent on a strong, moral infrastructure that includes sensitivity empathy, and respect for the dignity of the other, none of which represent a conflict of interests with determination and professionalism.

On the subject of respect for human dignity, Herzog referred to the death of Palestinian American Amar Asad, who at age 80, died as a result of the inhuman mistreatment to which he was subjected by Israeli soldiers who stopped him when he was driving home. In the Palestinian village of Jiljiliya. Herzog was frankly horrified that a man who was the age of the parents or grandparents of some of the people in the audience, could be treated with such indignity and disrespect.

The issue is not one that specifically applies to Palestinians, said Herzog, it is something that applies to all Israelis. Such action runs counter to everything that Jewish tradition teaches about respect for other human beings. Herzog was not being critical of the army but of its few rotten apples.

"The combat soldiers of the IDF are the best of the best," he said. "There is no doubt of that. They are entitled to our collective embrace and support." They operate in unbelievably complex circumstances, Herzog underscored, and precisely for that reason, more is expected of them. But when some fall short of the values that are taught, and thereby cost someone his life, it is obvious that every effort must be made to investigate what occurred, so as to ensure that such a serious flaw in behavior does not occur again.

Herzog also hinted that such behavior serves the interests of Israel's enemies who seek to delegitimize her and accuse her of apartheid.