Today it was announced that the personal smartphone belonging to Lieutenant General (ret.) Benny Gantz, ex-Chief of Staff of the IDF and currently the head of the new Blue and White party and Netanyahu’s challenger for the prime minister’s post in the upcoming election was hacked by Iran. According to the report, five weeks ago two senior counter-intelligence officers from the General Security Service known by its Hebrew acronym Shabak, met with Mr. Gantz and told him that the entire contents of his phone including both personal and professional correspondence was hacked and is now in hostile hands. They further warned him that this information could and most likely will be used against him at some point in time. With that, the officers left the decision as to how to proceed up to Mr. Gantz himself.
The Shabak declined comment, while the Blue and White party released a statement saying: “We do not comment on sensitive security information. It is worth mentioning that the incident took place four years after Mr. Gantz was no longer on active duty and the timing of its public release at this time raises significant questions”.
This unpleasant news is breaking at a time when the Blue and White party is struggling to define its message and is bleeding public support according to the latest polls. One of the polls released today, gives Blue and White 31 Knesset seats with the Likud dropping to 28. The three seat difference is the smallest that the new center left party has enjoyed since its inception. Even more damaging form Mr. Gantz’s perspective is the increase in the spread between the right and left blocs, with the right bloc now leading 64 to 56, including Arab members of the Knesset. Needless to say, should this result hold, there will be no way for Mr. Gantz to form a coalition government.
Blue and White party, with its leftist slant, is particularly vulnerable to accusations of being soft on national security, accusations that it sought to allay by placing at its head a recent Chief of Staff and many senior generals in its ranks. The news of the serious data breach of Mr. Gantz’s smartphone by Israel’s arch-enemy Iran is bound to do some damage to Mr. Gantz’s image as a security professional. How much damage will depend on how this story develops in the next days and weeks.