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In Glasgow meeting, Bennett and Macron agree to handle NSO scandal quietly

On sidelines of COP26, PM urges Australia’s Scott Morrison to list Hezbollah in entirety as a terrorist organization

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) meets French President Emmanuel Macron at the COP26 UN climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, November 1, 2021. (Haim Zach/GPO)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) meets French President Emmanuel Macron at the COP26 UN climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, November 1, 2021. (Haim Zach/GPO)

GLASGOW, Scotland — Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron about the NSO spyware scandal during a private meeting on Monday afternoon on the sidelines of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

They agreed to continue addressing the issue quietly and transparently, according to an Israeli official.

An international investigation in July unveiled the alleged hacking of Macron’s phone, causing a diplomatic rift. Macron called Bennett, who promised to investigate the matter. Days later, Defense Minister Benny Gantz flew to Paris and presented initial findings.

The media consortium behind the revelations, including The Washington Post, The Guardian and France’s Le Monde, reported at the time that one of Macron’s phone numbers and those of five French cabinet ministers were on the leaked list of potential targets.

The NSO Group has denied that Macron was among the targets of its clients.

Among other regional issues, Bennett and Macron also discussed Iran’s nuclear program, and its continued enrichment of uranium.

It was the first meeting between the leaders.

In this file photo taken on August 28, 2016, a woman uses her iPhone in front of the building housing the Israeli NSO group, in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Earlier in the day, Bennett met with Australian premier Scott Morrison, speaking about the Iran threat in addition to climate issues.

Bennett urged Morrison to ensure that Australia pushes for a rebuke of Iran at the next IAEA Board of Governors meeting in November. Australia is one of the 35 board members of the UN atomic agency for 2021-2022.

Bennett also brought up the importance of recognizing Hezbollah as a terror organization. Australia currently recognizes only the Hezbollah External Security Organization as a terrorist group, and not the entire organization. In June, Australia’s Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) recommended blacklisting all of Hezbollah.

Returning to a recent theme he has been expressing, Bennett said that climate change should not be a political issue, and that Israel’s contribution to the global effort is its talent for innovation.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (right) meets Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the COP26 UN climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, November 1, 2021. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Bennett was joined at the meeting by Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg, National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata and Political Adviser Shimrit Meir.

The prime minister also invited Morrison for a visit to Israel.

The last time the two leaders spoke was in June, when Morrison called to congratulate Bennett on cobbling together a government coalition.

Bennett also met for the first time with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The prime minister is leading a delegation to the Glasgow meeting of government officials, nonprofit leaders, academics and others.

Energy Minister Karine Elharrar and her new director-general, Lior Shillat, are part of the delegation, along with the director-general of Zandberg’s ministry, Galit Cohen.

Bennett is slated to meet with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez and Italian President Mario Draghi later Monday, as well Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday.

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