Police May Investigate Espionage Against Netanyahu Election Rival, Report Says

The owner of a shell company who paid to dig up dirt on Benny Gantz worked out of the offices of Netanyahu’s lawyer

Gur Megiddo
Gur Megiddo
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Gantz in Tel Aviv, March 3, 2020
Gantz in Tel Aviv, March 3, 2020Credit: Daniel Bar-On
Gur Megiddo
Gur Megiddo

The police may open an investigation into political espionage against Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz that was first reported by TheMarker, Channel 13 reported on Thursday night, citing law enforcement officials.

Channel 13 also reported that Rafael Weizman, the information security specialist who paid for the espionage against Gantz, was working out of the offices of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lawyer, Amit Hadad.

Bibi limps to election 'victory.' But he didn't win

0:00
-- : --

According to the report, Weizman had been using Hadad’s office to hold meetings for a long time. At some of these meetings, Weizman was introduced as the law firm’s information security manager. In addition, the report said, when people called the firm’s switchboard and asked to speak with Weizman, the calls were transferred to Hadad.

Hadad has denied that Weizman handled information security for his firm. Weizman said his computer company shares clients with Hadad, and that’s why he held meetings at the law firm’s offices.

Weizman owns a company called Armor - Cyber, BI and Consulting. As TheMarker previously reported, this firm served as a shell company which paid hundreds of thousands of shekels to the business intelligence company CGI Group, the company that was hired to secure embarrassing information about Gantz during the final weeks of the election campaign that ended on Monday.

The main person involved in negotiations to hire CGI was Netanyahu’s other lawyer, Yossi Cohen. Weizman was not involved in the talks with CGI; he only transferred the payments. During these talks, Cohen presented Weizman’s company to CGI as “Likud’s computer company,” referring to Netanyahu’s party.

Israel’s campaign finance laws require all parties to pay for their campaign expenses out of their own pockets. Using Armor as a front company to make the payments for espionage against Gantz would violate the law.

Armor was founded in January 2019, in the run-up to the first of the past year’s three elections, which took place last April. The company’s website lists its address as an office building in the central Israeli city of Hod Hasharon, but it does not have an office at that site. As TheMarker previously reported, the company’s real office – or at least, the post office box where it receives letters – is Weizman’s residential apartment building in Petah Tikva.

Weizman isn’t particularly well known in Israel’s computer world. Aside from the cyber defense business that his website says he runs, he is also registered as the owner of a company that sells printing and communications equipment.

On the eve of last April’s election, it was reported that Gantz’s cellphone had been hacked, ostensibly by the Iranian government, which supposedly obtained material which could have left him vulnerable to extortion. However, this report was never confirmed by an official source.

The one person who definitely did seek personal information about Gantz was Netanyahu, in part via CGI. TheMarker has documents that prove the prime minister’s involvement in hiring the company.

Insinuations about the personal information seemingly obtained by Iran were published primarily by media outlets close to Netanyahu. The prime minister’s son, Yair Netanyahu, also discussed Gantz’s personal affairs at length on his Twitter account.

The fact that Weizman – a virtual unknown in the computer world who owns a small computer company set up shortly before the first election of 2019 – was working at least partly out of Netanyahu’s lawyer’s offices simply adds to the question marks surrounding this affair.