Or­ange in Is­rael ‘for good’ says CEO amid row

The China Post - - BUSINESS -

The chair­man of Or­ange said this week­end that the French tele­coms group was in Is­rael “to stay” as a row raged over the group’s plan to re­view its busi­ness ties with an Is­raeli tele­coms firm.

Stephane Richard told AFP he “sin­cerely re­grets” the furor sparked Wed­nes­day when he said in Cairo that Or­ange would end its brand-li­cens­ing agree­ment with Part­ner, Is­rael’s sec­ond- largest mo­bile op­er­a­tor.

The Or­ange boss’s com­ments touched a raw nerve in Is­rael, which is grow­ing in­creas­ingly con­cerned about global boy­cott ef­forts and the im­pact on its im­age abroad.

A fu­ri­ous Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Benjamin Ne­tanyahu slammed the move by France’s part state-owned tele­coms group as “mis­er­able.”

The Or­ange boss said ear­lier this week that the move was not po­lit­i­cal, but his Cairo re­marks came af­ter the May 6 pub­li­ca­tion of a re­port ac­cus­ing the tele­coms gi­ant of in­di­rectly sup­port­ing Jewish set­tle­ment ac­tiv­ity through its re­la­tion­ship with Part­ner.

Com­piled by five mainly French NGOs and two trade unions, the re­port ac­cused Part­ner of build­ing on con­fis­cated Pales­tinian land, and urged Or­ange to cut busi­ness ties and pub­licly de­clare its de­sire to avoid con­tribut­ing to the eco­nomic viability of the set­tle­ments.

The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity re­gards all Is­raeli con­struc­tion on Pales­tinian land seized dur­ing the 1967 Six-Day War as il­le­gal.

In a state­ment to AFP on Satur­day, Richard re­it­er­ated that Or­ange’s re­view of its ties with Part­ner were not po­lit­i­cal.

“Or­ange does not sup­port any form of boy­cott, in Is­rael or any­where else in the world,” Richard told AFP in an email.

“Our de­ci­sion on the use of the brand is mo­ti­vated — as it is all over the world — solely by our brand strat­egy,” he said.

“Let me make it very clear that the Or­ange Group is in Is­rael to stay.”

He noted that Or­ange is present in Is­rael through two sub­sidiaries, Or­ange Busi­ness Ser­vices and Vi­ac­cessOrca, a spe­cial­ist in In­ter­net tele­vi­sion. Or­ange and Part­ner agreed in April to have their pre­vi­ously ope­nended li­cence ex­pire on March 31, 2025.

But Part­ner is­sued a state­ment late Satur­day dis­miss­ing Richard’s lat­est con­cil­ia­tory com­ments, say­ing it was out­raged that he had not been in con­tact with them him­self.

The spat fol­lows a high-pro­file diplo­matic row in De­cem­ber when law­mak­ers in France — which sup­ports the Euro­pean Union’s op­po­si­tion to set­tle­ment-build­ing — voted in fa­vor of rec­og­niz­ing Pales­tine as a state.

AP

Is­raeli flags are seen in­side the “Part­ner Or­ange” Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­pany of­fices in the city of Rosh Haain, Is­rael on Thurs­day, June 4.

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