“Don’t Read Israeli Media” Jokes Kremlin After Rumors Swirl Over Election Meddling

Russia hit back against rumors of upcoming election interference in Israel, after the head of the Shin Bet security service, Nadav Argaman, told a crowd at an event hosted by Friends of Tel Aviv University that he was “100%” sure of an upcoming cyberattack by a specific foreign state planning a specific attack.

While Israel’s military censor placed a gag order on the broadcast of Argaman’s speech, they eventually allowed parts of Argaman’s comments to be quoted – though the media was prohibited from broadcasting the name of the country Argaman had accused.

“I can’t say at this point for whom or against whom” the the interference will be, “but it involves cyber[attacks] and hacking,” said Argaman during an event hosted by Friends of Tel Aviv University – adding that he is “100% [certain] that [redacted foreign state] will intervene in the upcoming elections, and I know what I’m talking about, I just don’t know in whose favor.”

Several Israeli politicians pointed fingers at Russia in the wake of Argaman’s claims, suggesting that the attacks would benefit Israeli prime minister “Bibi” Benjamin Netanyahu, who is running for a fifth term while under three separate corruption investigations.

“We demand the security services make sure that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin doesn’t steal the elections for his friend, the tyrant Bibi,” said Tamar Zandberg, head of the opposition left-wing Meretz party.

Meretz chairwoman Tamar Zandberg echoed Zandberg, stating: “We demand security forces make sure [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is not stealing the election for his friend, Bibi the dictator.”

Following Argaman’s comments, Labor MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin requested that the Knesset’s cyber subcommittee urgently convent, according to Hadashot.

Last year, the head of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), Gadi Eisenkot, warned members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Israel must be prepared for the possibility of foreign influence from cyberattacks. He specifically noted incidents which reportedly occurred in the US, France and Ukraine – all attacks previously attributed to Russia.

In October ahead of municipal elections, Israel’s National Cyber Directorate announced that thousands of Facebook accounts established to spread fake news about Israeli political candidates had been taken offline at the agency’s request.

The Kremlin responds

Dmitri Peskov, Vladimir Putin

On Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov joked “Don’t read these Israeli media,” paraphrasing a famous quote by Russian medical doctor, writer and playwright Mikhail Bulgakov. “Russia never interfered, is not interfering and does not intend to interfere in an election in any nation of the world,” Peskov added.

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