Earlier this month, Stéphane Richard had angered the Israeli government at a summit in Cairo. The CEO of Orange had indeed mentioned the desire to be a trusted partner in the Arab world and the possibility of quickly withdrawing from the Israeli market, which had been likened to a boycott dictated by recent pressure from pro-Palestinian lobbies. As a reminder, Orange is present in Israel thanks to a license agreement. Local operator Partner Communications uses its name and image for a fee. To withdraw would thus consist in putting an end to this contract.
In order to avoid a diplomatic incident, the French government, Orange?s 25% shareholder, was quick to react. Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that "'It is up to the president of the Orange group to define the commercial strategy of his company", but that "France is firmly opposed to boycott of Israel ". Orange clarified the words of its CEO, evoking the wish to be present in priority in markets where it is an operator without intermediary. For its part, the CEO of Orange went there for his explanations. Stéphane Richard indicated that he regretted the wrong interpretation, with comments taken out of context, and that his group intended to remain on the Israeli market. He notably recalled investments in several young local businesses.