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Orange CEO Stephane Richard Is Coming to Israel

Stephane Richard

In a stunning turn of events, Orange SA CEO Stephane Richard is on his way to Israel. He accepted an invitation to visit the country from Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

So here is the story so far. Last week Richard told an audience in Cairo that he would like to pull out of Israel, where the brand name Orange is licensed for use by that country’s local Partner telecommunications firm, but that the company needs to at least wait until its current contract with Partner expires. He made it clear that his reasons for doing so were out of support for the boycott Israel movement.

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This led to an outcry in Israel and a call of the French government — which owns a 25% stake in Orange — to intervene. So then Orange released a statement saying that it would definitely be pulling out of Israel because it no longer wished to operate in countries where it did not control the local company which uses its name. Just by sheer coincidence, Israel is the only country where Orange has such a franchisee deal with a local company which it does not control.

Then Richard reversed that decision, telling AFP, “Orange does not support any form of boycott, in Israel or anywhere else in the world.”

So what changed? Was it the full court diplomatic press that Israeli diplomats and politicians engaged in with the French government? Was the reversal made out of a fear on the part of Orange that it would be labled anti-semitic? For now the full facts of whatever transpired behind the scenes have yet to be revealed.

Netanyahu’s office stated that French President Hollande had told the Prime Minister that France opposes honoring any boycotts of Israel.

Richard had reportedly attempted to meet with the Israeli Ambassador to France in Paris, but Israeli authorities scuttled that idea and Netanyahu was said to have told the Israeli ambassador not to agree to a meeting. An anonymous Israeli government source told AP, “The ambassador in Paris has been instructed not to have a meeting there in Paris and to tell the CEO that he would be a welcome visitor in Israel.”

Now an Orange spokesman has said that, “He [Richard] will go to Israel soon and will provide all the necessary clarifications to end this controversy and reaffirm the group’s commitment.”

With such a drastic turn of events happening in such a short period of time, one wonders what will happen next. Perhaps it will snow in Tel Aviv this August.



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