McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) is refusing to open a branch of their fast-food store in the Israeli settlement Ariel in the West Bank leading settler organizations to call for an immediate boycott of McDonald’s restaurants, the Guardian reports. The large fast-food chain has 180 stores in Israel, but did not offer to open up a store in Ariel, which is located deep inside the West Bank. The new store would have been located in a shopping mall currently under construction.
The decision to not open up a store in the West Bank stems from a long-standing policy that McDonald’s holds, despite the recent criticism from settler organizations in the West Bank. The policy calls for McDonald’s to not operate across the pre-1967 green line according to the policy of owner Dr. Omri Padan, who is a founding member of Peace Now — an anti-settlement organization.
West Bank settlers have not taken the news lightly. In a statement to the Jerusalem Post, Yigal Delmonti of the Yesha Council said, “McDonald’s has turned from a business into an organisation with an anti-Israeli political agenda,” and called for citizens in Israel to think about the politics before entering any McDonald’s establishments. The mayor of Ariel, Eliyahu Shaviro, held similar feelings. ”The decision by McDonald’s not to open a branch in the Ariel mall is an unfortunate decision that discriminates against the residents of the city,” he said.
As news about the situation broke, Israel parliament members Ayelet Shaked and Zvulan Kalfa — both members of the right wing Jewish Home Party — said they would boycott the company. Additionally, Burger Ranch, the main rival of McDonald’s in Israel, announced it would open up a chain in the Ariel mall ”for the glory of the state of Israel.”
Yariv Oppenheimer, a member of Peace Now, explained that the right to choose whether to operate in the West Bank should not be attacked. ”In every democratic country, every person or company has the right to choose not to go against their values, ideology or morals. The decision of McDonald’s reflects this and we support it,” he said.
While the lasting impact of McDonald’s new predicament is unclear, it is certainly sure to open up debates in the volatile region.