NYT: Netanyahu extended spyware to Saudi Arabia for ‘air space’

The New York Times reported how former PM Netanyahu helped Saudi Arabia extend its soon-to-be-expired license for the NSO’s spy software, in exchange for permission to allow Israeli planes to fly over Saudi territory to other Gulf states.

By Ido Ben Porat


The New York Times on Friday reported that former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu worked to ensure that Saudi Arabia would be able to use the Pegasus software, around the time that the Abraham Accords were signed with the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Abraham Accords signing ceremony. – Photo: Avi Ohayon, GPO

According to the Times, the Gulf states, including the UAE and Saudi Arabia, received a license to use the Pegasus program. One month after the Abraham Accords were signed, Saudi Arabia’s license expired – and the Israeli Defense Ministry refused to extend it, due to reports of human rights violations by Saudi Arabia.

Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, called then-Prime Minister Netanyahu, asking that he renew the license. At the same time, Bin Salman allowed Israeli planes to use Saudi Arabian airspace on their way to other Gulf states.

Netanyahu then instructed the Defense Ministry to allow NSO to renew Saudi Arabia’s Pegasus license. A short time later, the program was again active in the Gulf state.

The sale of the Pegasus program also played an important role in acquiring the support of Arab states for Israel’s campaign against Iran, as well as for their support for the Abraham Accords, the site noted.

The Times also noted that the American FBI purchased a version of Pegasus from NSO and installed it on FBI computers in June 2019 – but did not actually use the program. For the past year, NSO, the company which owns Pegasus, has been defined as a threat to US national security.


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