Education Minister Naftali Bennett urged Israelis not to punish the Israeli mobile company Partner, which operates under the Orange brand name, after the French telecom giant said Wednesday that it intends to withdraw the Orange brand name from Israel as soon as possible.
The Israeli government is currently examining its next step facing Orange, Bennett said in a Facebook post, urging Israelis who might seek to boycott Partner due to its connection to Orange not to hurt the livelihood of thousands of Israelis.
“Partner is the victim, not the aggressor,” Bennett said.
French human rights organizations have been pushing their government, which has a quarter stake in Orange, and the company itself, to end the relationship because Partner provides services to Israeli settlements. The settlements, built on land the Palestinians want for a future state, are seen as illegitimate by the international community.
Simultaneously, an international grassroots organization is calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians. Israel says the BDS movement is not about the occupation of Palestinian territory, but rather a campaign to delegitimize the Jewish state.
Orange’s CEO Stephane Richard, speaking at a news conference in Cairo to lay out plans for the years ahead in Egypt, said that would have ended its relationship with Partner “tomorrow” if it could, but to do so would be a “huge risk” in terms of penalties.
Partner said in response that it regrets Richard’s comments. “We wish to highlight that Partner Communications is an Israeli company owned by Saban Capital Group, which is owned by Haim Saban, and not by France Telecom (Orange). The company is holding the Orange brand name since 1998, and the only connection between us and France Telecom is the brand name.”
Haim Saban said in response: “I am proud to be to controlling shareholder of the Partner company, which is an Israeli owned company, which operates under the Orange brand name. I won’t be deterred by threats. I will continue to operate in Israel and lead the international struggle for Israel.”