KSA opened its airspace to Israel in exchange for access to Pegasus spyware: Report
The Israeli-developed spyware has reportedly been used by several governments to crush dissent and persecute opposition figures
By News Desk - January 29 2022

(Photo credit: Mario Goldman/AFP )

According to a report by The New York Times (NYT) published on 28 January, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) held a phone conversation with former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu requesting a renewal of the kingdom’s expired license for the Israeli Pegasus spyware, in exchange for giving Israeli planes access to Saudi airspace.

Although its sale was approved in 2017, an ethics committee called for an end to Saudi access to the software a year later, after reports surfaced that the kingdom had used it in the killing of journalist  Jamal Khashoggi, as well as in the ruthless campaign against dissidents.

However, in 2019 the software was back up again after the Israeli Defense Ministry called the NSO Group, Pegasus’ parent company, and ordered that Saudi Arabia’s system be turned back on. This coincided with negotiations between Israel, Bahrain, and the UAE, ahead of the official signing of the Abraham Accords normalization deal in 2020.

The report says that after the Saudi license for the spyware expired, MbS phoned the former Israeli prime minister personally, agreeing to allow Israeli flights to pass through Saudi airspace on their way to Israel in exchange for renewed access to Pegasus.

The agreement reportedly played an important role in Israeli-Gulf diplomacy and strengthened the normalization deal.

Despite no official peace treaty, Tel Aviv and Riyadh have enjoyed under the table relations for several years. In an interview with the Saudi-based Arab News Daily last year, Abdullah al-Mouallimi, Saudi Arabia’s UN representative, said that the kingdom is prepared to normalize ties with TelAviv based on the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.

“The official and latest Saudi position is that we are prepared to normalize relations with Israel as soon as Israel implements the elements of the Saudi peace initiative that was presented in 2002,” Mouallimi said.

Israel is also involved in the ongoing Saudi war in Yemen that began after the Ansarallah resistance movement took control of the capital city of Sanaa in 2015. The Israeli government, alongside the US, provides logistical support to the Saudi-led coalition.

Israeli weapons caches have also been discovered in Yemen by Ansarallah, even as early as 2015.

In addition, Israel provides support for the Southern Transitional Council (STC), a UAE-backed secessionist movement in Yemen whose aim is to establish a separatist state in the south of the country.

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