Sarkozy slams Israel boycott after Orange row

AFP , Monday 8 Jun 2015

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday slammed attempts to boycott Israel as "unacceptable", weighing in on a row between the Jewish state and telecoms giant Orange.

The company's CEO Stephane Richard last week said it intends to withdraw its brand from Israel, just weeks after a report accusing Orange of indirectly supporting settlement activity on occupied territory through its relationship with Israel's Partner Communications.

"I do not want to be involved in controversy. I know that Stephane Richard will come here to explain himself," Sarkozy told reporters on a business-focused visit to Jerusalem.

"The boycott of Israel is unacceptable. I'm not saying there was a desire by the company (Orange) to boycott, but I will say that it is not this way that we will make peace," he said.

Richard's remarks in Cairo infuriated Israel, which accused him of bowing to a Palestinian-led boycott campaign.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the "miserable action" of Orange and urged the French government, which partly controls the firm, to publicly renounce his remarks.

Richard said it was purely a business decision, not political, and later insisted Orange was in Israel "to stay".

The Orange row follows a number of high-profile successes by a grassroots Palestinian boycott campaign known as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.

Last week, Britain's National Union of Students voted to affiliate itself with the BDS movement.

And on May 29, Israel narrowly avoided expulsion from FIFA after the Palestinians withdrew a resolution calling on world football's governing body to ban their Israeli counterparts.

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