Orange and Israel

Recently the CEO of the French company Orange announced that he wanted his company to stop doing business in Israel.

The Orange name is licensed in Israel by the Israeli company Partner. Not surprising, a frequent joke is “It seems like Partner needs a new partner.”

Partner / Orange is the second largest cell phone company in Israel.

Many of us who are customers immediately started considering if we should stop using Orange and switch to another one of the cell phone companies.

On the one hand, it doesn’t seem right to switch companies and hurt the Israeli employees of Partner.

On the other hand, do I want to deal with a company that has chosen to affiliate themselves with a foreign company that wants to harm Israel?

Another Aspect of the Story

Supporters of the position taken by Orange France claim that the company is right to sever its ties with Israel because the Israeli company provides phone service in the “disputed territories” in violation of international law.

There’s now a discussion of this issue in the Washington Post:

The French Ambassador to the U.S., (and formerly Israel), defended the Orange CEO’s statement on Twitter:‘
“4th Geneva convention : settlement policy in occupied territories is illegal. It is illegal to contribute to it in any way.”

The author of the Washington Post piece immediately responds:

That statement is entirely baseless. Even if settlements are illegal, there is no ban on business in the territories, or with settlers. Certainly there is no tertiary obligation to not do business with businesses that have some tangential business in such territory.

It seems there is ample legal basis that companies are permitted to operate in “disputed territories.”

Perhaps the most instructive aspect of this was the reaction of Amb. Araud, when I pointed out to him that his legal claim is baseless, and squarely contradicted by France’s own courts in recent decisions involving Israel, which held the Geneva Conventions flatly inapplicable to private companies. It is also contradicted by the opinions the U.N. Security Council Legal Advisor, the EU Parliament’s legal advisor, and the U.K. Supreme Court, and more.

Orange-in-Israel

Not surprising, the whole dispute comes down to this:

First, for something to be law, it has to be a rule that applies to similar situations. And for it to be international, well, those situations will involve different countries.

What the French apparently want is, to paraphrase Stalin, international law for one country. Ok. But don’t call it international. And don’t call it law.

Once again, Israel has the privilege of being singled out for special treatment.