OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday discussed the Israeli-made spyware said to have targeted Macron's phone, an Israeli diplomatic source said.
Pegasus, made by the Israeli firm NSO Group, can switch on a phone's camera or microphone and harvest its data, and was at the centre of a storm in July after a list of about 50,000 potential surveillance targets worldwide was leaked to the media.
The media consortium behind the revelations, including The Washington Post, The Guardian and France's Le Monde, reported at the time that one of Macron's phone numbers and those of many French cabinet ministers were on the leaked list of potential targets.
The two leaders discussed "the NSO affair and agreed that the issue will continue to be dealt with in a discreet and professional manner, and in the spirit of transparency between the sides," the diplomatic source said.
The meeting between Macron and Bennett, a former high tech entrepreneur who assumed office in June, was the first between the leaders, and took place on the sidelines of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.
Macron, who had to change his phone number following the revelation, had convened an urgent national security meeting in July.
Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz had flown to Paris to tell his French counterpart his country took the allegations "seriously," with its defence establishment setting up a committee to review NSO's business, including the process through which export licences are granted.
NSO denied targeting Macron's phone. According to Axios website, Israel's national security adviser Eyal Hulata was in Paris late last month for secret talks aimed at "ending the crisis" around the Pegasus spyware, while briefing his French counterpart on the Israeli investigation into the matter.
The affair had heavily affected relations between the states, causing a "partial freeze" on cooperation, according to Axios. Meanwhile, NSO founder Shalev Hulio stepped down as CEO to become vice chairman of the board and global president, with Isaac Benbenisti taking over as CEO, the company said on Sunday.
"My responsibilities will allow me to focus on bringing into action my entrepreneurial experience, knowledge and passion and help to further develop NSO's strategy together with Isaac towards new directions such as analytics and defensive cyber security," Hulio said in a statement carried by NSO's website.