Home News NSO revealed as informal arm of gov’t? – analysis

NSO revealed as informal arm of gov’t? – analysis

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NSO revealed as informal arm of gov’t? – analysis
Is it time for the Israeli government to finally come out and more officially thank the NSO group that worked with it (allegedly) behind the scenes both in terms of normalization initiatives and in terms of the war on terror?

The New York Times It was reported late Monday that Israel is preparing to launch a campaign to persuade the US to remove the NSO from its Ministry of Commerce blacklist.

But this report should not surprise anyone who has been following news about NSO in recent years.

Back in July, Defense Minister Benny Gantz took it upon himself to travel in person to Paris to argue on behalf of the NSO in front of French President Emanuel Macron and make it clear that the cyber espionage company is not spying on him.

This came after 17 media organizations around the world tore up the NSO in the public eye amid accusations that its spyware was used by autocratic regimes to spy on human rights activists, journalists and foreign officials.

    PM Naftali Bennett Meets with French President Emanuel Macron in Glasgow (Credit: Haim Tzach / La PM Naftali Bennett Meets with French President Emanuel Macron in Glasgow (Credit: Haim Tzach / GPO)

Last week, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Macron met at the UN Conference on Climate Change in Glasgow, when Bennett promised to be more transparent about the controversy and try to smooth the issue over with the French prime minister.

The bottom line was that the prime minister himself personally weighed on behalf of the NSO.

As early as November 2019, the Jerusalem Post reported that the NSO could be used by the Israeli government to conduct business and improve relations with moderate Sunni states – later identified as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman.

If Israel could help those governments with cyber tools to fight jihadists, these governments might be more dependent on Jerusalem and more willing to normalize.

When Amnesty International tried to get the Tel Aviv District Court to revoke the NSO’s export license in January 2020, there were about two dozen Ministry of Defense and other government officials in the court tanning for its defense.

It was more officials than came with former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the High Court in 2016 to fight for the preservation of its main natural gas policy.

So it has been clear for some time how deeply the Israeli government has invested in NSO and its continued activities.

What has changed to bring the relationship wider is that NSO is now also on the US Department of Commerce’s blacklist, and was also attacked on Monday because of its spyware allegedly used to hack Palestinian activists’ cell phones.

This second item is significant because it fits into the saga of Israel that has declared six Palestinian human rights organizations as terrorist groups, for which Jerusalem and Washington are already in the midst of a kind of ‘cold war’.

The Cold War is both about Israel’s move against the specific groups and about the way it has collected and sometimes gathered evidence through harsh or improved investigations.

The Biden administration is trying to frame the United States as a global beacon of human rights.

It is therefore not interested in the confessions of Palestinian human rights activists that they double as money launderers for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist organization, if the confessions came from detainees interrogated in painful positions, with insomnia and certain psychological warfare tactics.

Israeli officials will also note that within days of the blacklist decision, a U.S. Federal Court of Appeals rejected NSO’s claim of sovereign immunity from a lawsuit by Facebook.

This Court of Appeals has been progressing slowly on this issue for some time and there is nothing accidental in its swift move to slam the NSO within days of the Department of Commerce move.

When two separate arms of the US administration declare a legal and economic war on the NSO, the Jewish state will cut off its work to try to overthrow this opposition.

The signs show that Jerusalem will claim to the Biden administration that the NSO’s spyware was used to fight Palestinian terrorists as well as US-targeted terrorists.

This is perhaps the only argument with a chance of success.

Washington supports Israeli normalization with Muslim countries, but has shown no willingness to give up on side issues or anger third parties in order to advance the process.

Moreover, the four countries with which Israel has normalized relations have come a long way, and NSO technology may have been one of the few incentives to push these normalization deals forward.

So will Jerusalem be able to bring enough evidence to aid terrorism in the past and in the future to the US (and not just Europe) to make it worthwhile to remove the NSO, and Biden to endure some criticism from the global human rights community?

Will Israel have to trade to remove the six Palestinian NGOs from its terrorist list in order to get a rejection by the NSO, or will there be another horse trade, as with the US Consulate in East Jerusalem, in which they want to reopen for the Palestinians?

Where the talks are leading, it is less and less worthwhile for the government to try to hide the nature of its special connection to the NSO.

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