The Orange telecommunications company has announced plans to sever ties to Israel.
Orange, which handles cellular and internet services for a wide swath of Europe, said it would end the relationship “tomorrow” if possible.
The comments were made by Orange CEO Stephane Richard, in a presumed link to the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign which seeks to ostracize the Jewish state by pressuring firms, governments and universities to boycott Israel.
“I am ready to abandon this tomorrow morning but the point is that I want to secure the legal risk for the company. I want to terminate this, once again, but I don’t want to expose Orange to a level of risk and of penalties that could be really sizeable for the company,” Richard said at a conference in Cairo.
“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.”
If the threat is indeed delivered upon, it could be seen as a major breakthrough for the BDS movement and a watershed moment for likeminded parties looking to blacklist the Jewish state.
“This is hypocrisy of the highest order,” said Yair Lapid, head of the Knesset’s Yesh Atid party. “I don’t remember him having a problem making money here and profiting from Israeli citizens. The state of Israel is an island of sanity in this difficult neighbourhood and we certainly won’t accept lessons in morality from someone so self-righteous and detached.”
Orange does not officially operate out of Israel, but lends its licensing to the tech firm Partner. The French-based firm is one-quarter owned by the France government.
Richard’s remarks drew immediate criticism from several Israeli Knesset members, and images of the Israeli flag draped over Orange billboards could be seen in the Jewish state.
“The problem is that now there are no negotiations,” US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro told Israel Radio. “In the past when there were negotiations, that was the most effective tool to tell other countries, perhaps private companies as well, not to impose sanctions because that would upset efforts to reach a solution.”
Likewise, a Twitter campaign launched today, with images circulating via social media accusing Richard’s of anti-Semitism and unfairly targeting Israel while seemingly allowing Palestinian transgressions to slide.