Defense Minister Benny Gantz will travel to Paris this week to "keep the French authorities updated" on the latest developments concerning Israeli cybersecurity company NSO, whose Pegasus malware was implicated in spying on French President Emmanuel Macron.
Gantz will meet with his French counterpart Florence Parly, the Defense Ministry said in a statement Tuesday.
The Pegasus software is at the heart of a global spy scandal that prompted the Reporters Without Borders NGO to demand a moratorium on its sale and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to demand more restrictions on the trade of these systems.
The sale of the software is subject to Defense Ministry approval due to the nature of its capabilities. Pegasus can hack into mobile phones without a user knowing, enabling clients to read every message, track a user’s location and tap into the phone’s camera and microphone.
The Knesset has set up a commission to investigate allegations that Pegasus was "misused" by some countries, a senior Israeli official said last week.
French paper Le Monde reported that Macron's phone was on a list of potential targets for possible surveillance using Pegasus on behalf of Morocco.
NSO rejected the claims of misuse of its product, calling them "full of wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories". Pegasus is intended for use only by government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to fight terrorism and crime, the company said.
Gantz's trip was planned before the NSO affair and was meant to focus on the growing economic crisis in Lebanon, which shares a border with Israel, and on world powers' efforts to resume a nuclear deal with Iran, Israeli media said.
Macron called a national security meeting last week to discuss the spyware after reports about its use in France emerged.
“The president is following this subject closely and takes it very seriously,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal told France Inter radio, adding that the unscheduled national security meeting would be “dedicated to the Pegasus issue and the question of cybersecurity."