It seems like everywhere you go, those iconic golden arches can be seen. Not in one place.
Israeli media are reporting that McDonald’s Israel says it won’t open a branch in Ariel, because it’s a Jewish settlement located in the West Bank. Ariel's mayor is calling the decision a "Big McInsult."
In a statement to the Calcalist, an Israeli business publication, the restaurant chain said that not opening a franchise in the West Bank has “always been the restaurant chain’s policy.”
According to the report, McDonald’s local franchise was approached by representatives of a new mall opening next year in the city which is located in Samaria – the northern part of the West Bank - with a population of 19,000.
The owner and general manager of McDonald’s Israel Omri Padan is also a founder of the left-wing group Peace Now, which supports Israel handing territory to the Palestinians in the context of a peace agreement and opposes Jews living in Judea and Samaria.
Israel Hayom quoted Padan in a 1998 interview to the liberal paper Haaretz saying, "McDonald’s-Israel neither did nor will open a branch at any Israeli settlement beyond the Green Line [the 1967 borders]. Already when I was the general manager of Kitan Textiles I told the board I would resign immediately if they move to open a plant [in] the West Bank. I have the privilege of not needing to compromise on my principles."
Rami Levy, who is an investor in the new project and also owns a large Israeli supermarket chain says Palestinians are going to pay the price for the fast food chain's decision. “I do not accept that companies make business decisions that are informed by political considerations. The mall in Ariel is expected to employ Arab and Jewish workers from the area and to provide services for these populations,” he said.
Israeli settler leaders are answering the apparent boycott with a call to its supporters to not patronize the fast food chain.
Burger Ranch, a competing domestic chain promised it would open in the new Ariel mall, according to the Jerusalem Post.
The settlement supporting group My Israel posted this graphic on its Facebook page with the McDonald’s logo and titled its post with the slogan, “McDonald’s - I'm NOT lovin' it”
Yigal Delmonti, deputy director of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria, tells the Jerusalem Post, “McDonald’s has turned from a business into an organization with an anti-Israeli political agenda.”
Tzahi Nahmias who owns the Mega Or construction firm which is selling space in the new mall suggested that some international franchises may be worried about the response from Palestinians and their supporters overseas if they decide to open in Ariel.
"The mediators told us that branches operating abroad and other companies holding rights in Israel for international brand names are worried about the potential negative response toward their businesses [by consumers] abroad if they open shop in the mall," Nahmias said.
Ariel Mayor Eliyahu Shaviro tells Arutz 7, “The decision by McDonald's is an unfortunate decision and discriminates against the residents. All issue of culture and commerce should stay out of the political arena.”
“Commerce is a bridge that creates good relationships irrespective of religion, race and gender. Peace will come through cooperation and trade, not through boycotts," the mayor added.
This apparent boycott by McDonald’s Israel comes as European Union officials are debating whether to specially label goods that are produced in Judea and Samaria, which means they would not be able to enter the EU duty free, unlike “Made in Israel” products. At the same time, the EU has so far failed to come to an agreement in its negotiations over blacklisting Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist organization. That dichotomy is being criticized by European Jewish leaders.
European Jewish Congress (EJC) President Dr. Moshe Kantor on Tuesday sent a letter to EU leaders, pointing out that the EU's pursuit of labeling settlement goods over listing Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, was "sending a worrying message."