Orange CEO claims decision to end license contract with Israel “not political”

Richard claims he was unaware of BDS connection, claims decision not political; Netanyahu calls on French government to “publicly denounce” decision; France against boycotts on Jewish state

Reuters

Reuters

Orange CEO Stephane Richard claimed on Friday that the decision to end its branding licensing deal in Israel is neither political nor connected to the BDS Movement.

Prime Minister called on France to condemn French telecom Orange stating on the decision, “I call on the French government to publicly denounce the despicable statement and miserable actions of a company that is under partial French government ownership. At the same time, I urge our best friends to loudly proclaim that they are opposed to any sort of boycott against the state of the Jews. This absurd drama will not be forgiven”.

The company released a statement Thursday evening stating, “In line with its brand policy, Orange does not want to keep its brand presence in countries where it is not an operator. Within this framework, and while strictly respecting existing accords, Orange would like to put an end to this brand licensing” and that Orange “has no reason to take part… in a debate of a political nature.”

On Friday morning, Richard stated in an interview with Israeli television that, “We love Israel. This has absolutely nothing to do with the kind of political debate in which I don’t want to be” adding that he “was not aware that there is an international campaign regarding this; I’m very sorry about this” in reference to the BDS Movement.

He stated that the decision was “purely commercial point regarding the use of our brand by a company under a license agreement. We don’t want to do that. Now we have a contract with Partner with an option for us to stop the use of the brand in the future, but not tomorrow of course. I have never said that Orange wanted to withdraw from Israel.” He added on a personal note that, “I am really affected by the idea that some people could imagine that we want to withdraw for political reasons. I am making a purely commercial and legal point.”

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius stated that France does not support Orange’s decision to cut its ties in Israel, and that France strongly denounces any boycott of the State of Israel. He stated, “While it is up to the president of the Orange group to define the commercial strategy of its company, France is firmly opposed to any boycott of Israel.”