France Backtracks Boycott of Israel

June 8, 2015

2 min read

At the French Socialist Party Congress on Saturday, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that France will not boycott Israel.

The comment was made following the media circus that transpired due to recent statements made by Stephane Richard, Chairman and CEO of Orange, a French telecommunications company. Richard said that barring contracts, he would pull his company out of Israel. While it is not certain that the CEO was making the statements with the intention to boycott Israel, the Israeli media very much portrayed it that way.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called for the French government to react to the statements that Richard made to reporters in Cairo last week. Richard said that he would leave Israel “tomorrow” if a pullout were not financially prohibitive. Richard expressed a desire to distance his company from the conflict in Judaea and Samaria.

In response, Valls told MK Stav Shaffir (Zionist Union) at the congress that “France is not talking about a boycott and there won’t be a boycott.” He added, “What concerns us is the situation in Gaza and the lack of progress toward a diplomatic solution.” Shaffir was representing her party at the congress, and talking to Parliamentarians in order to strengthen ties between the two countries.

“I was happy to hear the French prime minister’s commitment to French Jewry and to Israel, but I heard from other senior officials that they were very frustrated about our lack of diplomatic progress,” she said.

Valls’s sentiment was supported on Friday by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius in a statement he made about the Orange debacle. “While it is up to the president of the Orange group to define the commercial strategy of its company, France is firmly opposed to any boycott of Israel,” he said.

While France is opposed to boycotting Israel, they have in the past encouraged investors to cease investing in a company that has branches in Judaea and Samaria. Fabius continued his statement to reiterate that fact. “The position of France and the European Union on settlements is consistent and widely known,” he said, referring to France’s investor warning and continued pressure on Israel to restart peace talks with the Palestinians.

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