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Friday, June 05, 2015

Orange to sever links to Israeli affiliate

French mobile communications giant Orange has announced that it is severing its links with Partner, its Israeli affiliate. The move came on Thursday, a day after Orange's CEO said that he would like to do so but for the heavy penalties that would be involved. Orange denies that the move is politically motivated.
A statement from the company said that it doesn’t want to maintain its brand presence “in countries in which it is not, or is no longer, an operator.”
It clarified that it “does not engage in any kind of political debate under any circumstance.”
The announcement came a day after Orange CEO Stephane Richard said his company intended to withdraw the company brand from Israel as soon as possible, but that the move would take time.
He said that he would like to end cooperation with Partner “tomorrow,” but that to do so would incur a “huge risk” of penalties.
“Our intention is to withdraw from Israel. It will take time” but “for sure we will do it,” he said. “I am ready to do this tomorrow morning… but without exposing Orange to huge risks.”
“I know that it is a sensitive issue here in Egypt, but not only in Egypt … We want to be one of the trustful partners of all Arab countries.”
Orange does not operate in Israel but licenses its name to Partner Communications. On Wednesday, outgoing Partner head Haim Romano said the firms had recently renewed its agreement for another 10 years.
Here in Israel, no one is buying the claim that this is not political. 
“I am very, very angry. I think that what he said is the result of very significant pressure from pro-Palestinian [groups],” incoming Partner CEO Isaac Benbenisti told Army Radio following Richard’s comments.
Also on Thursday, Culture Minister Miri Regev called on the French president to fire the chief executive of telecom giant Orange SA.
“The French government must show zero tolerance for anti-Semitism,” Regev said in a text message. She also urged Jewish customers of Orange in France and around the world to drop their service and switch carriers.
On Wednesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely wrote to Richard asking for clarification.
“I must admit to have been taken aback by these reports which do not become a responsible global company such as Orange,” she said in the English-language letter, a copy of which was seen by AFP.
“I am confident that these reports do not reflect the intent of your company. I therefore urge you to clarify the matter as soon as possible.”
French human rights organizations have been pushing their government, which has a quarter stake in Orange, and the company itself, to end the relationship over Partner Communications Ltd.’s activity in Israeli settlements, which are considered illegal by the international community.
The carrier, one of three major providers in the Israeli cell market, is available in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
At the end of May, five non-governmental organizations and two unions in France asked Orange to state publicly its willingness to sever its ties with Partner and denounce “attacks on human rights” they said the Israeli company had carried out.
In Egypt, local Orange franchisee Mobinil has also come under pressure from BDS activists protesting Orange’s business with Israel.
This apparently means that Partner will be operating on its own without the Orange label - as do all our other cell phone companies. My guess is that other than not seeing the Orange logo every time you turn on your (new) phone, the only effect on customers will be that you may no longer be able to buy Orange's international packages when you travel abroad. Yes, that could hurt them.

But most Jewish Israelis would oppose committing suicide (by fleeing Judea and Samaria) over this.

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