Hello, Maj. Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland. It’s Nir Gontarz from Haaretz again.
Yes, hello Nir. All right, listen
One second, give me just a minute to sum up our conversation from this morning, so I’ll feel I’m getting substantial replies and you’ll feel you’re providing substantial replies. In that call I asked how a major general in the Israel Defense Forces reserves, a former commander of the officers training school who’s still in contact with and advises Israeli government and security departments, feels when he provides consulting services to the intelligence firm Black Cube, whose name has been associated more than once with controversial espionage activities.
Among other things, it is alleged to have assisted Harvey Weinstein, the American producer who is accused of rape. This week it was alleged in reports around the world that Black Cube also provided services to Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, by spying for him during the election campaign against left-wingers and human rights people. Orban himself is a controversial figure. In our conversation this morning, before saying that you’d get back to me with concrete answers, you told me that some of the reports were wrong and that
Then listen, that’s why I’m getting back to you now with an answer – respect that, at least. You call me first thing in the morning, I don’t know what it’s all about. I didn’t want to give you a false answer because I hadn’t checked, and on the other hand, I certainly don’t want to admit to things just because I don’t know. I promised you to check it out. Really, there are relations of decency and ethics among journalists. You called me in the morning, I wasn’t familiar with the issue. By the way, I read about it this morning in the paper, about an hour before you called, and I didn’t know a thing.
- Harvey Weinstein hired ex-Mossad agents to track women accusing him of sexual assault
- 'Hard to fathom Israel didn't know' about Black Cube's spying operations, former Obama aide says
- Israel's Black Cube campaigned against liberal NGOs before Hungary's election, Politico says
So, I went to the company today – I say this in quotation marks and with a smile – and worked for you, so I’m getting back to you with answers, and I ask you to quote those answers. Write whatever you want, your opinion, but if you quote me, quote the answers I’m giving you now, after I’ve gone over the matter thoroughly.
And I’m now saying the following sentences to you: One – and I’m guessing you’re recording me so it’ll be easy for you to remember and reconstruct. You don’t have to admit that. One, Black Cube was never involved, and it’s not involved now, and won’t be involved in the future, in any political activity in any country. Period. Of course, it was dragged into this. Everything that was said about the Hungary issue and alleged assistance to someone to win the election there – that’s totally unfounded. The company distances itself from any political activity, unequivocally. Period.
Two more points: Black Cube is a business intelligence firm. It’s simply better than others, and its criteria are two principles to which it’s faithful. I verified this today in a long meeting. One, every activity that’s done is totally legal activity in accordance with the relevant laws in each country. Two, not only does the activity focus only on business intelligence, the activity has one purpose: to show proof in court that our side is the one that was harmed by another side. And without exception, the company doesn’t take on a client unless it forms the impression, thinks and believes that the side that is contacting it is the side that was harmed, be it through bribery or theft.
The third thing I’m saying to you, as an example of activity of that kind, which also has a benefit to the public in Israel: There was a bankrupt Israeli billionaire named Moti Zisser who owed a great deal of money to Bank Hapoalim, which, if you like, means to the public. Bank Hapoalim hired the services of Black Cube, which was able to find assets he was hiding worth 95 million shekels [$26 million], which returned to the bank. With all the sensitivity involved, I feel very comfortable advising the company, not because of something that someone said about them, but because of things that I know and checked, and I trust them.
Very good. So Black Cube didn’t engage in vilifying those left-wingers and human rights people in Hungary. Did I understand correctly?
And you say the company never engaged in political-diplomatic issues and won’t engage in them in the future. Right?
What I’ve said was clear, and I assume you recorded me. Take what I said as I said it. Don’t interpret me.
All right. Now, two questions. I will just say that I thank you for checking. The first question is about the producer Weinstein. The allegations are that Black Cube tried to extract information from journalists who worked on investigative reports about his alleged sexual offenses. Is that right?
Look, I didn’t check that story. The company said at the time that it’s true that he hired them at the time, after the claim was made that he was being extorted. The moment the company understood, even before it was published, that the story was different, it stopped working with him.
Okay. This morning you told me you’re not a member of the board of directors but only of the advisory board, so you’re not always knowledgeable about all the details. This being so, I’d like to know whom you spoke with at the firm, because effectively you’re bringing me its version.
Listen, Nir, Nir. Nir. Once more I want to uphold ethics here. I went to the company, I sat with a person I’m authorized to speak with at the company, and I confirmed things concerning what the company deals with and what it doesn’t deal with. The company has an ethics code that I initiated. So I’m getting back to you now and giving you a sufficiently strong answer, and I’m saying to you in my voice that I represent the company’s position.
If you’re saying that you represent the company’s position, then very good.
Hold on, hold on. No. I don’t represent the company’s position on a permanent basis.
I understand. Regarding what you said here.
Regarding the questions you asked and the answers I gave you. What I have told you, I’m actually bringing you the company’s position, as I could have assessed it in advance. To be entirely certain, I went and checked things personally, thoroughly and at length, so I feel that from this point of view I’m more than all right, and I hope this will be reflected in the way you’ll present things.
It will be reflected 100 percent, and again, I thank you for the seriousness with which you treated my request. Thank you very much, sir.