Tel Aviv is suspected of having spied on the French prime minister’s secure phone calls when he was on a key visit to Israel in May amid tense ties with the regime over a Paris peace plan on the issue of Palestine.
French weekly magazine L’Express reported that Israeli intelligence services had asked Manuel Valls and his advisors to hand over their secure cellular phones and other electronic devices before attending a closed-door meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in occupied al-Quds (Jerusalem) in late May.
However, the French delegates noticed that their devices were not functioning correctly and showed signs of “tampering” after leaving the meeting, the report said.
“When the delegation had their cell phones returned to them, many of them were surprised to find that they were having trouble with the signal,” L’Express reported.
Upon returning home, the French officials turned in the devices to the National Cyber-security Agency of France (ANSSI), which opened an investigation into the case, the report added.
The ANSSI has not yet published the findings of its probe. L’Expresssaid Netanyahu’s office has denied reports of hacking into the French diplomats’ phones, saying Tel Aviv does not spy on its allies.
The visit by the French delegation took place at a time of heightened tensions with Tel Aviv, which had voiced strong opposition to the Paris initiative for an international conference on the Middle East peace process. The Palestinian Authority had supported the idea.
Valls, known to have close ties with Tel Aviv, was in Israel to get the regime on board with the French plan ahead of the June 3 Paris conference that saw the participation of 26 countries.
Israel had on numerous occasions rejected the initiative, with Netanyahu saying “the path to peace is not via international conferences that attempt to force a settlement.”