The Israeli government has long viewed the Pegasus as an important tool in its foreign policy. An article in New York Times Magazine this year reveals how, for more than a decade, Israel has made strategic decisions about which countries it allows to get licenses for Pegasus and from which countries to stop them.
The Israeli government has authorized the purchase of Pegasus by dictatorial governments, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which have used the weapon to spy on dissidents, human rights activists and journalists in those countries. Even democratically elected leaders in India, Hungary, Mexico, Panama, and other countries have misused the Pegasus to spy on their political opponents.
Israel has used the tool as a bargaining chip in diplomatic negotiations, especially in the secret negotiations that led to the so-called Abraham Accord that normalized relations between Israel and some of its historic Arab opponents.
“Export restrictions take into account policy decisions, security and strategic considerations, including compliance with international arrangements,” the Israeli Defense Ministry said in a statement in response to questions from the Times. “As a matter of policy, the State of Israel approves the export of cyber products to government agencies only, for legal use, and only for the purpose of preventing and investigating crime and to combat terrorism, under end use / end user declarations. Government acquisition. “
Since the NSO sold Pegasus to the Mexican government more than a decade ago, spyware has been used by dozens of countries to track criminals, terrorists, and drug traffickers. But the misuse of this tool has also been widespread, with Pegasus being used by Saudi Arabia as part of its brutal crackdown on dissent within the state, from authorizing Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orb to organize his intelligence and law enforcement services against his political spyware. Opponents
Last November, the Biden administration placed the NSO and other Israeli cyber firms on a “blacklist” of companies that are barred from doing business with American companies. The Commerce Department said the companies’ tools have “enabled foreign governments to carry out international repression, which is the practice of dictatorial governments targeting dissidents, journalists and activists outside their sovereign borders to appease dissidents.”
Ronen Bergman reports from Kiev and Mark Mazzetti reports from Washington.