Leak of alleged Iranian hack into Benny Gantz’s personal phone could affect election outcome


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The center-left Blue and White Party has asked Israel’s attorney general to investigate who leaked information that Iran had hacked into party leader Benny Gantz’ private cell phone.

Party officials said the timing of the report late last week on commercial Israeli television Channel 12 is suspect in that it could affect national elections which are nearly three weeks away.  The complaint was filed with the office of Avichai Mandelblit on Sunday morning.

Gantz, a former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces who has not been in uniform in four years, was informed of the hack five weeks ago by the Israel Security Agency. The hack took place about four months ago, and got his personal details and text messages.

The party has pointed its fingers at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, since all of the government agencies briefed on the incident are under the rubric of the Prime Minister’s Office. Netanyahu’s Likud Party already has used news of the leak in its campaign material.

Among the Likud’s claims is that Iran wants Gantz to become prime minister. Netanyahu’s office denies that he knew about the link prior to the Channel 12 report.

There reportedly was no sensitive security information on Gantz’ phone at the time of the attack. His party also has said that there was no embarrassing content on the phone.

Why it matters: News of the hack so close to the election could have an effect on its outcome. Gantz is running as a statesman and on security issues so if his phone did have anything sensitive on it or personally embarrassing it could change the way his supporters see him. In addition, if Netanyahu did know about the hack before the television report and if he or his supporters were responsible for the leak then it could be a new low for Israeli politics.

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