Israel Not Taking Orange’s Yes for an Answer

YERUSHALAYIM -

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has refused Orange CEO Stephane Richard’s recanting of his declaration to quit Israel, insisting that he come in person to Yerushalayim to explain himself.

Richard said that he will go to Israel to end the diplomatic row sparked by his remarks about ending a licensing deal there. Israel has not been satisfied with statements issued by Orange claiming that the comments reflected business considerations unrelated to the anti-Israel boycott, which were misunderstood. The French telecom firm subsequently said that it will not be severing ties with its Israeli franchisee Partner.

However, Netanyahu instructed the Israeli ambassador in Paris not to accept a request by Richard to meet, diplomatic sources said. “If he wants to explain, he can come to Israel to do so,” one source quoted Netanyahu as saying.

On Monday, an Orange spokesman said Richard welcomed the invitation and opportunity to clear up what he said was a misunderstanding.

“He will go to Israel soon and will provide all the necessary clarifications to end this controversy and reaffirm the group’s commitment,” said the spokesman.

Later on Sunday, Netanyahu said that Orange’s initial intention to leave Israel was part of “an orchestrated global campaign to delegitimize Israel.”

“His subsequent words of admiration for Israel clearly don’t square with the unequivocally hostile remarks he made in Cairo,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu’s office said he also spoke to French President Francois Hollande, who reaffirmed France’s “strenuous opposition to boycotts of Israel and voiced desire to preserve economic relations between the countries.”