Stephane Richard, Binyamin Netanyahu
Stephane Richard, Binyamin NetanyahuHaim Tzah/GPO

Orange Telecom CEO Stephane Richard met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Friday, where he attempted to conduct further damage control after calling to stop services in Israel last week. 

"I deeply regret the impact resulting from the context and interpretation of those statements," he said, according to statement issued by Orange. 

Richard claimed that Orange is against boycotting Israel, as well as any other country, despite saying last Wednesday in Cairo that he wanted to "dump" Israel "tomorrow" if he could without taking a financial loss; a day later his company announced it was cutting ties with Partner Communications, its Israeli franchisee.

"The vision of Orange, as a communications company, is to connect people," he said. "Boycotts are inconsistent with Orange's values."

He once again stated that Orange's recent remarks are "not tainted by political considerations, but by the brand's business strategy only" - even though he recently signed a pledge with Partner extending their relationship until 2025. 

Richard added that Orange is proud of its investments in Israel and that it intends to remain focused on its business and commercial strategy and continue to invest in Israel. 

Richard thanked the Prime Minister for holding the meeting and spoke about his impressions of the technological and digital advances found in Israel, a place of innovation and entrepreneurship.

"When it comes to the digital industry, Israel is the central place to be in," he said. 

Netanyahu responded that the meeting is an opportunity for Richard to clarify his words. 

"It's no secret that what you said last week was viewed by many as an attack on Israel, so this visit here is an opportunity to set the record straight," Netanyahu said. "Israel is the only country in the Middle East that guarantees full civil rights." 

''This is the only country in the Middle East where everyone is protected under the law in an equitable manner," he continued. "We seek true peace with our Palestinian neighbors, but this can be achieved only through direct negotiations between the parties without preconditions."

"It cannot be achieved through boycotts or threats of boycotts," he added. 

Netanyahu was particularly fierce in his criticism of Orange shortly after the controversy broke, stating that the incident would not be easily overlooked. 

"The absurd drama in which the democracy that observes human rights –  the state of Israel – and which defends itself from barrages of missiles and terrorist tunnels, and then absorbs automatic condemnations and attempted boycotts, this absurd drama will not be forgiven," he stated at the time. "I call on the French government to publicly repudiate the miserable statement and miserable action by a company that is under its partial ownership."

Richard had attempted to arrange meetings with its Israeli franchisee, Partner Communications, but was refused; Netanyahu also refused to allow Richard meet with any other Israeli official and demanded a direct apology.