Bennett: We will not leave the public without answers on NSO

The government “needs to understand exactly what happened,” Bennett said, but would not specify what kind of inquiry would take place.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in a press conference on January 11, 2022 (photo credit: NOAM RIVKIN-PANTON/FLASH90)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in a press conference on January 11, 2022
(photo credit: NOAM RIVKIN-PANTON/FLASH90)

The government will examine police abuse of Pegasus spyware as quickly as possible, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Monday.

“We will not leave the public without answers,” Bennett promised. “We understand the severity of the matter.”

The prime minister’s remarks came after Calcalist reported on a large number of civil servants and politicians’ family members who the police targeted using NSO’s Pegasus spyware, allowing law enforcement access to their phones.

“This tool and ones similar to it are very important in the fight against terror and serious crimes, but they weren’t meant for broad phishing of the citizens of Israel or public figures in Israel,” Bennett said.

The government “needs to understand exactly what happened,” Bennett said, but would not specify what kind of inquiry would take place.

An aerial view shows the logo of Israeli cyber firm NSO Group at one of its branches in the Arava Desert, southern Israel, July 22, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)An aerial view shows the logo of Israeli cyber firm NSO Group at one of its branches in the Arava Desert, southern Israel, July 22, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)

Bennett said he will discuss the matter with incoming Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara, whose appointment the government is expected to approve later Monday.

The Pegasus spyware is capable of remotely extracting information from targets' cell phones covertly, including texts, browser history, call history and screenshots, among other information.

Police analysts had reportedly rummaged through data obtained from the phones and listened to private conversations as well.

Bennett added that he is in favor of tools like Pegasus for fighting crime families and serious crimes.

"Where the line is drawn is something we need to regulate. That is the lesson we learn from this," he said. "I don't want to give up on the tool itself, but to regulate its use."

The prime minister said that crime families in Arab society are an extreme danger to Israel that are "eating us up from the inside...eating away at the foundations of society."

"We need all the tools to take care of it, but to use these tools carefully and in a way that is closely watched," he stated.

Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.