Netanyahu Associate Hired Intel Firm to Dig Up Dirt on Gantz

Prime minister's spokesman denies the report, while Gantz's party says Netanyahu adopting tactics of 'dark regimes'

Gur Megiddo
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting, February 9, 2020.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting, February 9, 2020.Credit: RONEN ZVULUN,AP
Gur Megiddo

The business intelligence firm CGI Group was recently hired by an associate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to collect incriminating or embarrassing information about Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz, an investigation by TheMarker revealed.

CGI, owned by Zvi Naveh and former Shin Bet security service head and Yesh Atid MK Jacob Perry, was engaged a few weeks ago to obtain documents relating to Kahol Lavan's connection with the Tzur Communications firm, owned by Gantz’s campaign adviser Ronen Tzur.

CGI was also asked to check claims that an unidentified person was being employed by the media firm, which could have served the Likud campaign if found to be true, in addition to searching for a copy of the contract between Kahol Lavan and Tzur Communications. It is not known whether this contract was ultimately obtained.

The firm was engaged by a group connected to Likud, which was said to be responsible for paying for the services. The person who made the connection is a man very close to the Netanyahu family. The contract is estimated to be worth several hundred thousand shekels, but it is not known if any payment has actually been made.

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Netanyahu’s spokesman, Ofer Golan, said that the report is “lies and falsehood.”

CGI Group is the same company that provided services to Kahol Lavan during their campaign for the previous election, following reports that Iran had hacked Gantz's phone as well as those of  other senior party officials. The company's findings were later released to the media. 

After Kahol Lavan and CGI terminated their relationship, someone close to the Netanyahu family engaged the intelligence firm’s services in the hope of finding information that could break the electoral stalemate. Recently the prime minister’s son, Yair Netanyahu, has been tweeting statements relating indirectly to the information the company was engaged to find.

Kahol Lavan said that “Netanyahu is adopting tactics used by dark regimes. More than ever, the message is clear: either Kahol Lavan or Erdogan,” comparing Netanyahu to the Turkish president.

Tzur responded, “it seems as if Netanyahu has gotten confused in recent weeks and has forgotten that the candidate he’s facing is Gantz and not Tzur. If Netanyahu is interested in any kind information, he has my cell phone [number] and that of those who were in touch with him when he suggested that Tzur handle the campaign. It’s a shame to waste public funds through a third party and possibly get involved in serious violations of the Party Funding Law.”

Kahol Lavan hired the company after recordings of internal Kahol Lavan discussions were leaked to the media. The leak undermined the party’s campaign for the April 2019 Israel election, and may have even caused the party electoral damage. At the same time, the allegations that Iran had hacked Gantz’s cellphone were published.

CGI was thus engaged by Kahol Lavan at the beginning of the campaign for the September 2019 election to ascertain whether the leaked recordings had been obtained by hacking. Gantz associate Hod Betzermade contacted CGI on behalf of the party and agreement for half a million shekels ($139,000) was signed between Kahol Lavan and CGI. 

CGI’s report deemed it likely that the hackers sent a text message to a number of senior party officials with a link which, when clicked on, gave them access to the phones' contents. The report’s findings were leaked to the media, which led to bad blood between Kahol Lavan and the company.

The party publicly attacked the findings, saying that it’s impossible to identify a hacked phone without testing it in a laboratory. Perry and Naveh defended their company’s findings and accused Kahol Lavan of besmirching the company because the findings made the party uncomfortable.

Perry, Naveh and CGI Group refused to respond to questions for this report. Naveh and Perry have been tied to an investigation that influenced the 2018 presidential election in Georgia. According to reports, CGI provided its client with a report that confirmed the authenticity of a recording that documented the country’s former president, Mikheil Saakashvili, discussing the possibility of hiring a hit man to assassinate the chairman of the ruling party, an issue that helped the current president, Salome Zourabichvili, win the election.

In recent months the company has also been getting attention in Germany, where it has been hired to investigate issues relating to a diamond heist from a Dresden museum.

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