TEL AVIV – A foreign country “intends to intervene” in Israeli elections in April using cyber-attacks, the Shin Bet chief revealed Tuesday according to Hadashot TV news.
“100 percent [redacted name of foreign country] will intervene in the upcoming elections and I know what I’m talking about, but I don’t know who will benefit,” Nadav Argaman said at an event at Tel Aviv University on Monday.
Israel’s military censor originally blocked much of what he said for publication, the report said. However, it later lifted the gag order partially.
The meddling “involves cyber-attacks and hacking,” Argaman said.
He added that the Shin Bet obtained concrete proof of the plan to intervene.
Later on Tuesday, the Shin Bet released a statement saying it had the ability to monitor and thwart any intervention attempts.
“The Israel Security Agency wishes to clarify that the State of Israel and the intelligence community have the tools and capabilities to locate, monitor and thwart foreign influence efforts, if there are any,” the statement said.
“The Israeli defense establishment has the tools and capabilities to allow the existence of democratic and free elections in the State of Israel,” it continued.
After Argaman’s comments were released for partial publication, Labor MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin filed a request to convene an emergency session of the Knesset’s cyber subcommittee, the TV report said.
Opposition MK Revital Swid (Zionist Union) also responded to Argaman’s comments by saying she had long warned of cyber interference.
“There must be an urgent discussion in light of the fear of foreign intervention in the elections,” she said. “I request an urgent discussion in light of media reports about the clear and worrisome statement by Shin Bet Director Nadav Argaman that a foreign country is planning to interfere in the elections in the State of Israel.”
Hatnuah chairman Yoel Hasson, who also serves on the Central Elections Committee, called on its chair, Justice Meltzer, to convene a discussion on the issue. “There must be an urgent discussion in light of the fear of foreign intervention in the elections. I request an urgent discussion in light of media reports about the clear and worrisome statement by Shin Bet Director Nadav Argaman that a foreign country is planning to interfere in the elections in the State of Israel,” Hasson said.
Tamar Zandberg, head of the left-wing opposition party Meretz, said Israel should thwart any attempts by Russian President Vladimir Putin to influence elections in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s favor.
“We demand the security services make sure that Putin doesn’t steal the elections for his friend, the tyrant Bibi,” Zandberg said in a statement.
Kremlin spokesperson Dimitri Paskov on Wednesday denied accusations that Russia has interfered with the election process until now, Russia’s Interfax News Agency reported.
He also denied that the Kremlin has any future plans to intervene in Israeli elections.
“Russia is not interfering and does not intend to interfere in the elections in any country in the world,” Paskov said.
According to Russian daily Izvestia, Paskov also said that people should “not read the Israeli media.”
The Russian embassy released a tweet to that effect, and accompanied it with a meme reading, “Keep calm and blame Russia or Russian hackers.”
"It is out of the question. #Russia has never interfered in elections in any country and has no plans to do it in the future," Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in relation to allegations about Moscow’s possible meddling in the #Israel's parliamentary elections. pic.twitter.com/eSckBVBrxC
— Russia🇷🇺 in Israel (@israel_mid_ru) January 9, 2019