by Emir Nader and Menna Zaki
“Believe me I would cancel the contract tomorrow if I could,” said Stephane Richard, Chief Executive Officer of mobile network Orange about his company’s links with Israel.
In response to a questions asked by Daily News Egypt at a press conference Wednesday, the CEO sought to distance himself and his company from the actions of Israel and the network’s affiliate there.
Richard suggested that the contract with the Israeli affiliate was ‘inherited’ and thus out of the company’s hands. However, when asked about reports that the contract was renewed in 2015, Richard said: “We didn’t renew the contract, we wanted to change the terms of the contract and include a termination date, as there previously wasn’t a termination date, and gave us no possibility of leaving the deal.”
“We want to terminate this and to fix this, we don’t want it. 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,” Richard said. “The only other possibility would be to enter a dispute with the partner, and I’m sorry to say but entering a dispute when you have zero legal grounds in Israeli courts is not something I would recommend for my company. I am not willing to pay hundreds of millions of euros just because I have to take a risk in terms of penalties.”
Orange Israel has been targeted by an Egyptian ‘BDS’ campaign to boycott, divest and place sanctions on companies that cooperate with Israel, for the occupation and alleged war crimes of the Israeli state. Orange Israel is understood to have sponsored combat units in the 2014 Gaza offensive, running a campaign to ‘Adopt a soldier’.
“The amount of money we receive from these contracts is very, very low, we are not involved out of financial interest,” Richard said. “If you take the amount of money we receive and the amount of time we take explaining this in France and elsewhere, believe me it’s not a good deal.”
Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat expressed his concern to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius over the French company’s involvement in the Israeli military occupation and the mass violations on Palestinian territories.
The company sponsored unit combats during the war on Gaza in 2014 and is helping the Israeli forces expand their settlement activities in the West Bank, according to Palestinian news agency Ma’an