Just a day after its CEO said the company wanted to end its Israel business, Orange Telecom has released a statement saying that the move has nothing to do with the BDS movement and is entirely about a realignment of its business priorities, after it found itself at the center of the growing international controversy over the boycott movement.

"The Orange Group has no operational presence in Israel. It has a brand licence agreement with the operator Partner Communications. The Orange Group is not a shareholder of Partner and has no influence on the strategy or operational development of this company,” the statement issued Thursday said . "In line with its brand development strategy, Orange does not wish to maintain the presence of the brand in countries in which it is not, or is no longer, an operator.”

The company insisted that it "does not engage in any kind of political debate under any circumstance,” but that seems unlikely to put an end to the controversy, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling on France to "distance itself publicly from the miserable statement and the miserable action of a company that is partially owned by the government of France.”

The furore was touched off Wednesday when CEO Stephane Richard told a press conference in Cairo that he was "ready to abandon this (the company’s involvement in Israel) tomorrow morning.” Richard was in Cairo to lay out Orange’s future plans in the country, where its subsidiary Mobinil operates.

Partner Communication licenses the Orange name for brand purposes but operates independently from the international company.

While Orange is downplaying the move, Richard was quite clear that political considerations were at least part of the equation, suggesting that the little revenue it received from Israeli firm Partner Communications was greatly outweighed by the damage it did to the brand in the much larger Arab market. In addition to Egypt, the company operates in a number of regional markets including Tunisia and Jordan.

"If you take those amounts on one side and on the other side the time that we spend to explain this, to try to find a solution and the consequences that we have to manage here but also in France, believe me it’s a very bad deal,” he said, according to The Guardian . “I know that it is a sensitive issue here in Egypt, but not only in Egypt. ... We want to be one of the trustful partners of all Arab countries.”

But Israelis and Palestinians are making it clear that they consider this a key battle in the BDS movement, which aims to force Israel to end its illegal activities in occupied Palestine through international boycotts targeting companies that do business in or support the Jewish settlements that are built on Palestinian territory.

Israel considers the BDS movement anti-Semitic, inline with its policy that any criticism of its violations of human rights and international law is a direct attack on Judaism and Jews.