President Francois Hollande, in a conversation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday evening, expressed his strong opposition to boycotting Israel and a desire to maintain economic ties between the two countries. Netanyahu spoke with the French president about the agreement being drawn up between Iran and the world powers and expressed growing concern regarding it.
Moreover, Netanyahu repeated his commitment to a two-state solution and expressed his opposition to any attempt to impose a settlement on Israel, which he said would worsen the possibility of reaching a final settlement.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu extended an invitation for Orange’s CEO, Stephane Richard, to come to Israel to give his explanations for a controversial statement he made regarding suspending its Israel operations.
This followed Richard’s call Friday to the Israeli embassy asking for an urgent meeting with the Israeli Ambassador in order to apologize. The embassy told him that his request would be examined. The issue was brought to the attention of the Prime Minister and the Deputy Foreign Minister, Tzipi Hotovely, for a decision.
Israel deliberated the matter and the concern was that the meeting would convey the message that Israel had forgiven him, despite the heavy damage caused by his statement in Cairo. In the end, the decision taken was to go for a compromise: If the CEO wants to apologize, he is welcome to come and do it in Israel. Already on Saturday the Prime Minister hinted that he did not accept Richard’s apology. Netanyahu said that Richard’s words of admiration do not offset his hostile comments in Cairo.
Richard created a storm early last week, when, against the backdrop of pressure applied by boycott supporters on his company, he said in Cairo that he would be happy if his company suspended its operations in Israel. Later on, he and his company said that Orange’s desire to leave stems from economic factors and company policy not to operate in countries where it is not a cellular operator but only provides its brand name to a local company. In Israel the company Partner uses the Orange brand name but beyond that there is no connection between the companies.
In recent days, it seems Richard is doing his best to atone for his mistake. In an interview with Ynet and Yedioth Ahronoth on Friday he claimed that the decision to terminate the agreement with Partner in Israel is not a political decision. “I want to emphatically say that I am hurt by the idea that someone thinks we want to leave the country for political reasons,” Richard said, rejecting claims he was cooperating with BDS. “We are friends of Israel, this has nothing to do with Israel, we love Israel. My words were misunderstood. I was talking about a purely financial matter.”
On Saturday he told Agence France Presse: “We are in Israel and we are there to stay. I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart about the uproar created.”
By Itamar Eichner/Ynetnews