French President Emmanuel Macron asked Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday for clarifications following allegations that Morocco potentially targeted him with Israeli NSO's Pegasus spyware.
Bennett's office refused to comment on the phone call, first reported on Saturday by Israel's Channel 12 News.
Meanwhile, American officials have asked an Israeli defense official for more details following the publication of a massive international investigation, which they told their Israeli counterpart was "disturbing."
The project, led by an organization called Forbidden Stories together with Amnesty International and a consortium of newspapers and journalists across the world, was based on leaked data and revealed a long list of high-profile individuals that were selected as potential targets for the firm’s Pegasus spyware by its clients.
NSO denied any wrongdoing and claimed the reports are false.
On Tuesday, Pegasus partner Le Monde revealed that one of the phone numbers selected as a potential target was that of Macron. Their team of reports said that it was one of over 10,000 phone numbers selected as a potential target by the Moroccan state security service, which is known to be a client of NSO and its Pegasus spyware. Some 10 percent of those numbers were French, they found. Also potentially targeted by the software - but by a different client - was also the Morocco’s King Mohammed VI.
According to data, a number that Macron uses regularly appears on the list of potential targets since at least 2017 and until recent days.
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Immediately following the publication of the report, Macron called for a series of investigations to be carried out into the Pegasus spyware case, Prime Minister Jean Castex told French TV channel TF1 on Wednesday.
Then on Thursday, Macron held an emergency cybersecurity meeting to weigh possible government action after reports that his cellphone and those of government ministers may have been targeted by spyware. Macron changes his phones regularly and is “taking the matter very seriously,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal said Thursday on France-Inter radio.
Forbidden Stories has revealed in the past how Morocco uses NSO's tools to track and spy on journalists. Amnesty published its first report on how NSO’s products were being used in Morocco in October 2019.
Israel and Morocco have had official ties since 2020 since a joint Israeli-American delegation headed by Trump administration senior adviser Jared Kushner and Meir Ben-Shabbat, who heads Israel's National Security Council, flew to the country. At the time, a number of low-level cooperation agreements were signed between Morocco and Israel. More recently, the Moroccan Air Force held a joint drill with Israel this month.
In response to the report, NSO told Haaretz: “Emmanuel Macron or King Mohammed VI are not and never have been Pegasus targets."