Orange CEO Stephane Richard
Orange CEO Stephane RichardReuters

The debacle over the Orange telecom company's boycott of Israel has deepened Friday, as the CEO of Israeli telecom firm Partner, which uses the Orange franchise name, stated that he is moving to take action. 

"We were overwhelmed by the very irresponsible declaration of the CEO of Orange France," incoming CEO Yitzhak Beneviste stated to Army Radio on Friday morning. "We do not make decisions in a few hours, we will do our assessments already this morning and decide what is good for us and our customers." 

Stephane Richard, Orange France's CEO, insisted to Yediot Aharonot Friday that his words calling to "dump" Israel over providing service to customers in Judea and Samaria after months of intense pressure from the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement were "misunderstood." 

Despite having recently signed a 10-year extension deal with Partner, Richard claimed that his statements were due to "business considerations," not his political views. 

"It has nothing to do with Israel, we love Israel, we are working and investing money to Israel, we are friends of Israel," he touted. Richard also claimed he was unaware of the global BDS movement against Israel, despite it making headlines on nearly a monthly basis for the past five to ten years - and it being a major source of tension between the European Union (EU) and Israel. 

"I never said that Orange wants to break away from Israel, I was not aware of the global campaign for a boycott against you, and I'm sorry about that." 

Benveniste vehemently opposed Richard's claims.  

"I do think your statements are political statements, I do think a statement against the State of Israel and Partner are due to pro-Palestinian pressure trying to sabotage Israel's relations with the world," he fired. 

Cross-company support

Beneviste's repulsion of the boycott is shared by several other Israeli telecom company CEOs, who made a series of statements Friday morning condemning Orange's political meddling. 

"The statements of Orange World CEO Stephane Richard to declare a boycott of Israel are very outrageous," Eli Kimchi, CEO of Fujicom Israel, stated Friday.

He also called on Israelis to refrain from boycotting Orange Israel due to Richard, as the move would hurt Partner - which only uses the Orange name as a franchise.  

"Partner is an Israeli company which employs thousands of workers and the call to cancel subscriptions in Israel, first and foremost, hurts us, and would bring about a state of mass layoffs in the company," Kimchi urged. "There are other steps you can take to protest against Orange World, but you must not make Israeli Partner a victim." 

Boaz Dekel, CEO of Project Management Institute (PMI), echoed Kimchi's support for Beneviste. 

"Partner, an Israeli company, employs thousands of workers and its owner is an enthusiastic supporter of Israel," Dekel said. "Coming from a Zionist home - and my grandfather was a signer of the Declaration of Independence - I think that we should not pass over in silence the anti-Semitic campaign by the managers of global companies, whose sole objective is to harm the country's economy." 

Dekel further called for Israelis to "turn the power of the Jewish community in the world against Orange to deter other executives from joining such an initiative."