The French telecommunications company Orange has reached a deal allowing for a parting of ways with an Israeli mobile service provider, weeks after a squabble over a possible withdrawal of the brand from Israel’s cellular market whipped up a diplomatic storm.
Under a previous agreement, the Israeli provider, Partner Communications, was licensed to use the Orange brand until 2025. But the two companies announced on Tuesday that they had signed a new framework agreement that gives each side the right to terminate the brand license agreement in the next two years.
Stéphane Richard, the chairman of the French company, which is partly state-owned, said in Cairo on June 3 that he wished he could end Orange’s licensing agreement with Partner Communications “tomorrow morning.” The remarks were widely interpreted as a response to a growing movement to boycott companies that operate in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Faced with Israeli fury, Mr. Richard sought to clarify his comments, saying that Orange opposed boycotts and that he had been speaking from a purely business perspective, not a political one. He insisted that he had been misunderstood.
Mr. Richard then took the unusual step of coming to Israel to apologize to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had denounced Mr. Richard’s earlier statement as “miserable.”
Partner executives in Israel said at the time that the Orange brand, in use here for 17 years, may have been irrevocably damaged in the eyes of Israeli consumers and that they were considering suing Orange.
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SOURCE: NY Times, Isabel Kershner