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Report: Saudi Crown Prince Phoned Netanyahu to Renew NSO License

avatar by i24 News

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks during the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) 41st Summit in Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia January 5, 2021. Photo: Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS

i24 News – Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reportedly phoned Israel’s then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to renew the kingdom’s expired license for NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware, The New York Times reported Friday.

After the license expired, Israel’s Defense Ministry decided against renewing it, claiming Saudi Arabia abused the Pegasus spyware. They referred to the case of Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist tracked with the spyware in the lead up to his 2018 murder.

NSO could not provide maintenance to the software without the license, causing systems to crash. Calls to NSO executives, the Mossad, and Israel’s Defense Ministry failed to solve the issue, according to the report.

This prompted the crown prince to place an urgent call to Netanyahu.

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Netanyahu was not updated on the crisis, but after the conversation with Prince Mohammad, his office ordered the Defense Ministry to solve the problem, The New York Times claims.

A crucial part of the agreement was using Saudi airspace by Israeli planes flying eastward on their way to the Gulf ahead of the Abraham Accords, which normalized Israeli ties with several Gulf countries.

“The claims… are a complete fabrication,” a statement released by Netanyahu’s office claimed, according to The Jerusalem Post.

“All sales of [NSO’s Pegasus] systems or similar products of Israeli companies to foreign nations are made with the approval and supervision of the Defense Ministry, as required by Israeli law.”

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