Sharon Shalom who headed former Minister of Defense Avigdor Liberman's bureau, has been appointed to a senior position in Israeli smartphone surveillance and spyware company NSO. The company confirmed the report, saying, "Sharon is being appointed to manage the company's global political apparatus."
Shalom retained his position in the Ministry of Defense after Yisrael Beitenu chairman Liberman resigned in November 2018, until August 2019, serving in the position for three years. He was closely associated with Liberman for a decade. Netanyahu's decision to leave him in office surprised many, given the great tension between Netanyahu and Liberman over the past year.
Shalom's move from a sensitive senior job in the Ministry of Defense to one at the controversial spyware company is reminiscent of senior Ministry of Finance officeholders who moved into desirable jobs in the private market. Senior officeholders in government and the private sector utilize their connections gained in their public positions and the information that they have acquired to promote the interests of private companies.
Shalom is not the first government official to join NSO. Earlier this month, it was learned that IDF chief censor Brig. Gen. Ariella Ben Avraham was negotiating to join NSO. Her job will probably include a focus on regulation and media. Ben Avraham, who has been the military censor for over four years, is due to be discharged from the IDF in June, but has asked for that date to be brought forward.
NSO, founded in 2010 by CEO Shalev Hulio and Omri Lavie, has developed a range of cyber intelligence products. The company's lead product, Pegasus, is described as a security tool, and the company says that it is devised to help governments and espionage organizations prevent terrorist acts. At the same time, the company became controversial when it was revealed that its software was used to spy on journalists and opponents of unsavory regimes.
NSO made headlines in 2017 when "The New York Times" reported that the Mexican government was conducting constant surveillance of its political opponents using Pegasus. The company again gained attention when it was linked with the 2018 murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Following the murder, a Saudi Arabian citizen filed suit against NSO in the Tel Aviv Magistrates Court, charging, "The system (Pegasus) was used to eavesdrop on many of the claimant's conversations and messages with the late journalist. The surveillance of him using the system made a real contribution to the decision to assassinate Mr. Khashoggi." NSO denies this allegation.
The most recent development in the affair took place last month, when the court dismissed NSO's petition for immunity against the legal action against it, ruling that it had to file a statement of defense in the case by February 2.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on January 19, 2020
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