Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev is calling on the board of the international telecommunications giant Orange Group to sack the firm’s CEO, Stephane Richard. Regev issued her appeal Thursday, following the appearance of a statement on the Orange website in France explaining its intent to cut ties with Israel as soon as legally feasible.
This time, there was no mention of “occupation.” The statement on the company’s website announced its wish to terminate its brand presence in “countries where the Group is not or is no longer an operator.”
“The Orange Group is a telecoms operator and as such its primary concern is to defend and promote the value of its brand in markets in which it is present,” the statement began. “The Group does not engage in any kind of political debate under any circumstance.”
No mention of Richard’s blatant anti-Israel remarks that were so much in evidence in Cairo — but a clear legal strategy to extricate itself from its contract with its Israeli carrier, Partner Communications.
Orange noted that in Israel it “has a brand licensing agreement with the operator, Partner Communications” but that the Orange Group itself “is not a shareholder in Partner and thus has no influence on the strategy or the operational development” of the operator. Orange was acquired by France Telecom in 2000.
Regev called on French President Francois Hollande to back up the vows he made to Jews in France back in January when he promised “zero tolerance” for anti-Semitism. The minister also urged Jewish customers around the world who currently use the Orange telecommunications service to change their carriers immediately.
Within Israel, however, Education Minister Naftali Bennett — who previously served as Economy and Trade Minister — called on Israelis who use the Partner Communications carrier not to cancel their own service, saying that Partner should not be punished for the anti-Israel actions by Orange.
The company chief had announced in Cairo Wednesday he would “gladly” sever ties with Israel but claimed the firm’s contract precluded such a move. One day later, however, he appeared to take that step anyway.
In the wake of Richard’s anti-Israel remarks, meanwhile, Israeli carrier Partner Communications is preparing to request compensation of its annual estimated NIS 15 million payment to Orange for the use of its brand name.
The betrayal by the international corporation was felt keenly by Israeli workers as well. Dozens of Partner employees were demonstrating at the firm’s headquarters Wednesday and Thursday following publication of Richard’s blunt support for the BDS (boycott, divest & sanctions movement) boycott of Israel. The workers brought with them a giant Israeli flag, with which they covered the company’s signature Orange logo.Hana Levi Julian