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Israel’s relations with France tense following Orange announcement

Government partially owns telecom giant

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5 Jun 2015
Israel’s relations with France tense following Orange announcement
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius issued a statement designed to cool tensions with Israel on Friday, hours after telecom giant Orange announced it will soon cut ties with its Israeli affiliate in a move many Israelis see as yet another sign of European hostility. "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," Fabius insisted. Orange, which is partially owned by the French government, also issued a statement that the move was taken for financial, not political reasons. But few Israeli analysts and commentators appeared to be taking this statement seriously. “I call on the French government to publicly repudiate the miserable statement and miserable action by a company that is under its partial ownership,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday evening.
 
“The absurd drama in which the democracy that observes human rights – the State of Israel – and which defends itself from barrages of missiles and terrorist tunnels, and then absorbs automatic condemnations and attempted boycotts, this absurd drama will not be forgiven,” Netanyahu added.
 
According to Reuters, France’s Foreign Ministry “reaffirmed that France is against any boycott of Israel, while viewing as illegal the settlements it has built in occupied territory, where Partner and other Israeli phone companies also operate.”
 
“Partner is taking the recent remarks of the chairman of the board and CEO of France Telecom, which harm the value of the brand in Israel, very seriously, and is weighing the full range of options at its disposal,” outgoing Partner CEO Haim Romano said in a joint statement with his incoming replacement, Itzhak Benveniste.
 
"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 Group does not engage in any kind of political debate under any circumstance," a statement on the Orange company's website read Thursday. "This agreement, which was signed prior to the acquisition of Orange by France Telecom in 2000, is the only long-term brand license agreement within the Orange Group. In line with its brand development strategy, Orange does not wish to maintain the presence of the brand in countries in which it is not, or is no longer, an operator. In this context, and while strictly adhering to existing agreements, the Group ultimately wishes to end this brand license agreement."

 

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