In exchange for Riyadh opening its airspace to flights from Israel, then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to extend Saudi Arabia’s licence to use the controversial Pegasus spyware.
Despite the fact that the software’s sale was allowed in 2017, an ethics committee recommended for Saudi Arabia’s access to be revoked a year later amid claims that it was used to hunt down and assassinate Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, The New York Times reported.
Pegasus, on the other hand, was back in action in 2019, according to the report. This occurred when Netanyahu was negotiating with the UAE and Bahrain to normalise relations. In September 2020, an agreement was signed.
After getting a call from the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, Netanyahu personally intervened when Saudi Arabia’s licence expired.
Mohammed Bin Salman agreed to allow Israeli planes and flights to use Saudi airspace, bolstering the normalisation agreements reached with Saudi Arabia’s Gulf neighbours.
According to the NYT report, the Israeli Ministry of Defense called Pegasus’ parent firm, the NSO Group, and ordered Saudi’s system to be turned back on after a call between Bin Salman and Netanyahu.