Crown Prince reportedly reached out to Netanyahu for help after spyware license not renewed due to concerns over human rights abuses.
By World Israel News Staff
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reportedly spoke directly with then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, despite the countries having no formal diplomatic relations, and agreed to grant planes en route and departing from Israel the right to travel through Saudi airspace in exchange for a renewal of the Kingdom’s cell phone hacking spyware, provided by Israeli company the NSO group.
According to the New York Times, Israel’s Defense Ministry – which approves all transactions between the NSO group and foreign nations – said they would not renew Saudi Arabia’s license for the software out of fears that the Gulf kingdom was leveraging the solution to persecute activists and political dissidents.
The licensing agreement for the Pegasus cellphone monitoring software states that the sole appropriate use for the product is to track down terrorists, in order to preemptively stop attacks that pose a risk to national security.
Since the NSO group’s Pegasus software was allegedly used by Saudi Arabia to spy on murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Defense Ministry was concerned that the solution was not being used according to the licensing agreement.
As the Kingdom’s systems began crashing due to the Ministry declining to renew the license, Riyadh reached out to a number of high-profile Israeli figures in order to get the decision reversed, the Times reported.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman then called Netanyahu on the phone for a one-on-one conversation, after which the then-premier reached out to the Defense Ministry and told them to reinstate Saudi Arabia’s license.
Shortly after that, the Times reported, Saudi Arabia agreed for the first time to allow Israel-bound planes to travel through its airspace.
A spokesman for Netanyahu strongly denied the report in a statement, calling the claims “a complete lie.”
The idea that that he could override the Defense Ministry in exchange for political favors is ridiculous, the statement continued.
“All sales of this system or similar products from Israeli companies to foreign countries are made with the approval and supervision of the Defense Ministry, as required by Israeli law,” the statement concluded.