Gantz Denies Sex Tape After Iranians Hack Phone, Says There's No Threat of Extortion

In special press conference, main Netanyahu rival calls the story 'a political spin,' said no compromising data was found in phone ■ Likud petitions election committee not to allow live broadcast for fear of electioneering

Benny Gantz speaks to the media in Kibbutz Nir-Am, Israel March 15, 2019
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Benny Gantz, the chariman of the Kahol Lavan political alliance, said on Friday no compromising data was found on the phone breached by Iran, and claimed the whole matter was 'a political spin' meant to obscure Israel's real issues.

Earlier, Gantz reassured his party members that there are no sex tapes of him.

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According to the report by journalist Amit Segal, Gantz was approached by two officials from Israel's Shin Ben security service five weeks ago, during the election campaign, and was informed that his private device was breached.

The two told Gantz that the hack into one of his devices occured around that time, during the election campaign, and that the Iranians have the content of his phone.

"I'm not under threat of extortion" by the data found on the phone, Gantz said Friday, spaeking on the Gaza border at a special press conference to discuss the security situation after two rockets targeted Tel Aviv Thursday.

Benny Gantz, during a visit to Kibbutz Kfar Aza, southern Israel, March 13, 2019.
\ AMIR COHEN/ REUTERS

Asked about the hack after discussing the security situation with Gaza, Gantz said: "There is a much more serious problem here than Gantz's phone." Someone is pulling a spin here, he said, adding that the real problem is Netanyahu’s policy.

"I'm playing with people whose ethics are at the lowest points. I will continue," he said. "There are two major events happening here: A war over democracy and ethics."

In a statement, Kahol Lavan said that Gantz's phone had no security information in it, no embaressing videos and that he has never been blackmailed. "There is no basis for the operational briefings being held by the prime minister's people," Kahol Lavan said. The party added that "the lies that have been distributed in bulk prove without a doubt  who is behind the publication and why."

Likud petitioned the Central Election Committee to not allow the press conference to be broadcast live for fear of electioneering, and it was therefore shown on Facebook Live and broadcast on television with a 10-minute delay.

>> Analysis: Iranian hacking of Gantz's phone could open door to blackmail – and impact Israel's election

The news report said that the Shin Bet officials told the ex-Israel Defense Forces chief that the breach meant Tehran had access to all kinds of information he may have stored on his phone: personal and professional. Gantz was also informed that this served as a potential security risk, seeing as Iran might unveil information it finds on his cellphone after the election, or tamper with the election process. 

They also told the former general was told that he could "proceed according to his own judgement," according to the report. 

Due to the sensitivity of the report, Segal noted that the Israeli censor approved the publication of the information before he went on air. 

The Shin Bet did not comment on the report.

In January, Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman said that a foreign country intends to intervene in Israel's upcoming election via hackers and cybertechnology. Argaman said it remains unclear at this point what the foreign nation's political interests are, but that "It will meddle – and I know what I'm talking about."