Israel's Defense Minister Benny Gantz assured during a short visit to France that the allegations of espionage would be investigated using the Israeli software Pegasus.

The allegations were taken "seriously", wrote the Israeli Defense Ministry after the meeting with the French Defense Minister Florence Parly on Wednesday evening.

Parly said she called for quick clearance after cell phones were allegedly targeted by President Emmanuel Macron and senior government officials.

The head of the intelligence service, Bernard Émié from the DGSE, also took part in the conversation.

Michaela Wiegel

Political correspondent based in Paris.

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In France, the mobile phones of those affected are currently being examined, but the results of the investigation have not yet been released.

The suspicion has been confirmed despite the denials from Israel and Morocco.

According to information from the newspaper Le Monde, the e-mail address (bergers.079@gmail.com) that was used for the penetration of the spyware on other affected cell phones was found on the cellphone of the former Environment Minister Francois de Rugy.

Rugy was the only one who had given his mobile phone to the experts at the security lab of the human rights organization Amnesty International.

His cell phone number was on a list of other cabinet members and President Macrons that had been discovered by a Moroccan security agency.

Help with building the atomic bomb

The managing director of the Whatsapp short message service, Will Cathcart, confirmed in a conversation with the British newspaper The Guardian that the spying program's actions corresponded to the security attacks on Whatsapp accounts. Whatsapp and its parent company Facebook are in legal dispute with the Israeli NSO manufacturing company. Cathcart said the new Pegasus affair should be understood as a wake-up call to finally regulate the use of spy software more closely. President Macron has also adopted this argument.

The defense ministers' meeting was preceded by a telephone conversation between Macron and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, in which, according to information from Figaro, the Frenchman allegedly justified his displeasure with the negligent Israeli export controls. Pegasus is considered a combat weapon and is subject to an export license from the Israel Defense Ministry.

The Elysée Palace did not deny the information that Macron Bennett should have threatened with a revision of the security cooperation. France and Israel work closely together in the fight against terrorism. The trusting cooperation dates back to the 1950s, when France helped Israel acquire the ability to build atomic bombs. The secret technology transfer was made public in 1986 by the "father of the French atomic bomb", Francis Perrin.

This background explains the irritation in Paris.

France calls for stricter export controls on the espionage software.

Gantz raised the issue and pointed out that "the State of Israel only authorizes the export of cyber products to government agencies for lawful use and only for the purpose of preventing and investigating crimes and combating terrorism".

Officials visited the office of the Pegasus manufacturing company NSO on Wednesday, the Israel Defense Ministry communiqué said.

Parly informed Gantz about the "clarifications that are expected from France today and on which the trust and mutual respect of our two countries depend," said the French ministry.

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