Likud MK Keti Shitrit expressed shock upon learning that she had been among those targeted in an Iranian espionage operation, which the Shin Bet security agency announced that it had foiled on Wednesday.
“I did not understand where this came from, I was in total shock,” Shitrit told Channel 12. “I was really surprised when the Shin Bet called and asked to speak with me.”
Shitrit said she was in contact with one of the women implicated by the Shin Bet, who is suspected of having filmed the opposition lawmaker and had met with her at a mall several months ago.
“I asked her how she was doing and she told me she had problems with her son. I understood this was related to the army,” Shitrit said.
The network said the suspect was told by her Iranian handler to try to film Shitrit in compromising circumstances, but had been unable to do so. The suspect was also told to try to get Shitrit to help the suspect’s son obtain a transfer to the IDF’s elite 8200 intelligence unit — an effort that also failed. Both Shitrit and the suspect reside in Beit Shemesh.
“I explained to her that I have no ability to transfer people from place to place in the army,” Shitrit told Channel 12.
The Likud MK said the woman pressed, saying she would reward Shitrit if she met with her. The lawmaker responded that she did not have time.
Shitrit is expected to serve as a prosecution witness in the case, according to Channel 12.
The Likud MK said in a separate statement that the affair further highlights the extent to which Iran poses an “existential threat” to Israel.
Meanwhile, lawyers for the five suspects in the case said that they intended no harm. One of their sons was quoted by Channel 12 saying that his mother is an elderly woman who would never do anything to harm Israel, and worked to encourage the immigration of Jews from Iran.
Babek Yitzhaki, an Iranian-born journalist, said the affair is an “earthquake” within the community of Israelis born in Iran.
The Shin Bet announced the arrests of the five Jewish Israeli suspects earlier Wednesday, accusing them of assisting an Iranian operative in gathering intelligence and making connections in Israel.
The five suspects — four women and one man — are all Jewish immigrants from Iran or the descendants of Iranian immigrants.
According to the Shin Bet, the suspects took photographs of strategically significant sites in Israel, including the US Consulate in Tel Aviv; attempted to form relationships with politicians; provided information about security arrangements at different sites; and committed other offenses — all at the direction of the Iranian operative, who went by the name Rambod Namdar, in exchange for thousands of dollars.
Two of the suspects also attempted to convince their sons to join an IDF Military Intelligence unit, the Shin Bet said.
However, as none of the suspects allegedly involved in the case had access to significant classified material, there was no indication that this spy ring seriously compromised national security. It did, however, reveal a potential weak point that could be used by Iran in the future.
The investigation and resulting indictments shed light on the rare and little-discussed phenomenon of Jews from Iran traveling to Israel to visit family.
Namdar, who maintained profiles on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, pretended to be Jewish in conversations with some of the suspects.
In some cases, the suspects acknowledged that they were aware that Namdar may have been an Iranian intelligence operative, but continued their communications with him anyway, according to the security service.
The five suspects were indicted over the past month in the Jerusalem District Court.
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.