Tzipi Hotovely
Tzipi HotovelyFlash 90

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) on Wednesday night sent a letter to the CEO of the France-based Orange mobile company, Stephane Richard, urging him to take back his remarks regarding a boycott of Israel.

"I call on you to refrain from taking part in the industry of lies directed against Israel," wrote Hotovely, adding, "I am sure that these reports do not reflect the intentions of your company, and call on you to clarify the issue as soon as possible."

Economy Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) condemned Richard’s remarks, adding, “One cannot force anything on Israel by way of boycotts and the only way is through dialogue and negotiations.”

“I intend to contact the CEO of Partner Communications and the heads of the company and offer them any assistance to cope with the boycott intentions of Orange,” added Deri.

Richard was quoted as having said in reports on Wednesday that if he could, he would “tomorrow” end his company's ties with its Israeli associate, Partner Communications.

“We want to terminate this and to fix this, we don’t want it,” Richard said at a press conference in Cairo. “In the existing contract, it gives us the option to terminate this without exposing this to a huge financial risk. If you were the CEO of this company you would act the same.”

Orange has been targeted by a BDS campaign in Egypt and several European countries. The company raised the ire of BDS groups who allege that the Israel operation provided free phone calls to IDF soldiers fighting in Gaza during last summer's Operation Protective Edge.

In the past several weeks, large numbers of Egyptians have switched companies, putting a dent into the company's business there. Richard was in Cairo, among other reasons, to plead with customers not to leave the company.

The only reason Orange has not terminated its franchise contract with Partner – from which, Richard said, “we make very little money” - was to avoid litigation in Israeli courts.

Sorry to say, but a dispute with Partner when you have zero legal position in Israeli courts is not something that I would recommend for my company. I am not going to pay hundreds of millions of euros only because I would have (to) take a risk, a huge risk, in terms of the penalties that we could have if we entered into this kind of brutal process,” he said.