Despite Russia’s denial of any involvement in the upcoming Israeli elections, with a senior Moscow official saying that people should not read the Israeli media, intelligence sources in Tel Aviv announced there were several indications for such intervention, adding that Israel’s cyber army fended off several attacks.
Director of the Shin Bet domestic security service Nadav Argaman discussed the issue, saying security forces were concerned about foreign interference that could affect the Knesset elections’ outcome.
Speaking at a Friends of Tel Aviv University conference, Argaman said that a foreign country intended to launch cyber attacks in order to influence Israel’s general elections.
The issue is considered an internal matter, however, several journalists attending the conference reported the news, which prompted the military censorship to issue an order banning the publication of Argaman’s statement. The military gag was later lifted when reporters threatened of filing a lawsuit, though the naming of the country in question is still prohibited.
“I don’t know in favor of whom or against whom the foreign country will interfere. At this point, I cannot say which political interest plays a role here, however, a foreign country will attempt to meddle in the April elections and I know what I’m talking about,” the Shin Bet director said.
However, head of left-wing Meretz party, Tamar Zandberg, demanded security services make sure that Putin doesn’t “steal the elections for his friend, the tyrant Bibi,” using the nickname of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In her statement, Zandberg was referring to the close ties between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Netanyahu.
Labor MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin submitted a request to urgently convene the Knesset’s cyber subcommittee.
State Comptroller, Judge Yosef Shapira said earlier Tuesday that his office was already planning to conduct a comprehensive examination of the issue of cybersecurity in relation to the upcoming elections. He indicated that examining this issue “is a difficult challenge, however, we must adjust ourselves to the times we live in order to stay relevant.”
In response, Netanyahu told reporters that: “Israel is prepared to thwart a cyber intervention, we’re prepared for any scenario and there’s no country more prepared than we are.”
Discussions of a possible intervention in the Israeli elections came at a time when the race for the post of prime minister appears to be intensifying, and the results of internal polls conducted by the Likud have begun to worry Netanyahu, especially after it was said that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is determined to summon Netanyahu for a hearing in the corruption cases against him.
On Tuesday, Channel 10 published results of a poll which indicated that the Prime Minister continues to lead as Israelis’ preferred candidate for prime minister, but former IDF chief Benny Gantz appears to be closing the gap.
The poll found that when presented with a choice between the two, 41 percent of the public chose Netanyahu while 38 percent picked Gantz. Twenty-one percent were undecided.
Channel 10 also revealed that nearly half of the public, 49 percent, do not believe Netanyahu’s claims that his criminal investigations are being conducted unfairly, while 33 percent believe him and 18 percent are undecided. However, among the Jewish public, those who believe Netanyahu amount to 38 percent.