Orange to continue operations in Israel despite prior announcement otherwise

Published June 7th, 2015 - 04:00 GMT

The chairman of French communications company Orange says it will continue operating in Israel, despite a previous announcement that it would halt its work there.

Stephane Richard said that he “sincerely” regretted a “controversy" over the French telecoms firm’s ties with Israel.

Richard denied that Orange would soon end its brand-licensing agreement with Partner, Israel’s second largest mobile operator.

Orange announced plans to end its operation in Israel earlier this month. It planned to cease cooperation with Israeli operator Partner Communications Company headquartered in Tel Aviv over the latter’s illegal activities in Palestinian territories.

The comments from Richard come just 2 days after Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu threatened the French government to "distance itself publicly from the miserable statement and the miserable action of a company that is partially owned by the government of France.”

Earlier this week, Richard had said Orange will certainly stop its joint business with Partner.

“Our intention is to withdraw from Israel. It will take time,” Richard said, adding, “For sure we will do it… I am ready to do this tomorrow morning... but without exposing Orange to huge risks.”

Orange’s previous decision to end operations in Israel irked the Israeli regime.

On Thursday, the Israeli regime’s Culture Minister Miri Regev demanded that the French government dismiss the "anti-Semite" chief executive of the French telecommunications company.

Back in May, rights groups urged Orange’s officials to denounce “attacks on human rights” and take action against the Israeli firm, which is working under a license of the French company.

The French firm said that Partner is involved in the illegal construction of new settlement units in the occupied West Bank and thus should be ostracized.

Orange had previously said that the contract with Partner was inherited from the past and that it had no role to play in the Israeli company’s management and strategies, a stance later modified under mounting pressure from the rights groups.

Many other companies and business enterprises around the world have already ceased their activities in the occupied territories as part of a global campaign known as Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS).

More than half a million Israelis live in over 120 illegal settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East al-Quds (Jerusalem) in 1967.

The United Nations and most countries regard the Israeli settlements as illegal because the territories were captured by Israel in the 1967 war and are hence subject to the Geneva Conventions, which forbid construction on the occupied lands.

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