Israeli settlers have called for a boycott of McDonald’s after the fast food giant refused to build a restaurant in a major West Bank settlement.
Developers of a shopping mall under construction in Ariel, a sprawling settlement that reaches far into the West Bank, invited the American hamburger company to build on outlet in the project.
However, the owner of the Israeli franchise rejected the offer, citing a long-standing policy of not operating as a business outside the country’s internationally recognised 1967 borders.
In response, settlers called for a boycott of McDonald’s and its major competitors, Burger Ranch, immediately promised to open a store in the same complex.
“McDonald’s has turned from a business into an organization with an anti- Israeli political agenda,” settlement activist Yigal Delmonti, deputy director of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, told the Jerusalem Post.
“We expect that Israeli citizens, especially those living in Judea and Samaria [West Bank settlements], will take this into account before entering the company’s franchises.”
Meanwhile, the mayor of Ariel, Eliyahu Shaviro, told local media: "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."
In response, a McDonald’s spokesman said the policy to exclusively operate within the pre-1967 green line as always been held by franchise owner Dr Omri Padan, who was a founding member of the anti-settlement organisation Peace Now.
Others have spoken out in support. Yariv Oppenheimer, the current executive director of Peace Now, said the decision demonstrates a “basic lack of will to participate in expanding and developing the settlement enterprise that harms Israel’s general interests.”
"In every democratic country, every person or company has the right to choose not to go against their values, ideology or morals,” he said. “The decision of McDonald's reflects this and we support it."
The future of Ariel itself is hotly contested. The Israeli government expects the region, which currently homes around 20,000 settlers, to be included in future borders but it currently stretches far into the West Bank, making it illegal under international law.