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McDonalds Refuses To Open Branch In Israeli West Bank Settlement, Ariel

28/06/2013 17:37 BST

When a new McDonalds rolls into town, you can expect one or two concerned residents to be up in arms. But in a West Bank settlement, the refusal of the global burger chain to open a branch is what's causing the outrage.

McDonald's have taken the view that even when it comes to fast food in the Middle East, it's political.

The chain declined an offer to open a branch in a new shopping mall in the sprawling settlement of Ariel - citing a long-term policy not to open restaurants beyond the 1967 green line.

mcdonalds israel

Israelis eat at a kosher McDonald's restaurant in Tel Aviv

"This has always been the policy of Dr Omri Padan [the franchise owner]," McDonald's said in a statement. The chain's competitor in Israel, Burger Ranch, immediately issued its own statement, saying it would be opening a branch in Israel.

Padan was a founding member of Peace Now, which campaigns against settlements, and although he is no longer officially involved in the organisation, he still holds the principle that he will not open businesses in the West Bank.

Ariel has around 20,000 residents, and is expected to become part of Israel in any negotiated land-swaps if a two-state solution is ever found to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Yigal Delmonti of the Yesha Council, a pro-settlement organisation, told the Jerusalem Post: "McDonald's has turned from a business into an organisation with an anti-Israeli political agenda.

"We expect that Israeli citizens, especially those living in Judea and Samaria [the biblical term for the West Bank], will take this into account before entering the company's franchises."

He called on Israeli settlers to boycott Big Macs until McDonalds changes its position, and a campaign, entitled "I'm Not Loving It" has circulated on pro-Israeli Facebook groups.

“I think the decision not to open a McDonald’s here is a mistake and hurts a large population,” Ariel mayor Eliezer Shaviro told The Media Line. “Any kind of boycott is a mistake and causes more division.”

But the move was praised by progressives.

“In every democratic country everyone has the right to decide where to live and where to open his business,” Yariv Oppenheimer, the director general of Peace Now told The Media Line. “Padan did not want to take part in “settlement” activity. He thinks the “settlements” are damaging to Israel and we agree.

McDonalds has 170 branches across Israel, but waited until 1993 to open its first branch due to an Arab League boycott of the country.