Settler leader seeks to fry McDonald’s airport tender over West Bank ‘boycott’

Samaria Regional Council chief appeals to finance, transportation ministers to deny application from fast-food giant

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Kosher McDonald's restaurant in Ashkelon, Israel. (Creative Commons via JTA)
Illustrative. A kosher McDonald's restaurant in Israel. (Creative Commons via JTA)

A leading settlement official has demanded that fast-food giant McDonald’s be booted from a tender to operate eateries in the country’s main international airport because it refuses to open any branches in the West Bank.

Samaria Regional Council Chairman Yossi Dagan sent a letter to Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Transportation Minister Israel Katz, claiming that Omri Padan, the local franchisee of the monster fast food chain and a co-founder of Peace Now, is breaking anti-boycott laws by not opening branches beyond Israel’s pre-1967 lines, the Ynet news site reported Monday.

In 2013 Padan reportedly refused an offer by Rami Levy of the eponymous supermarket chain and real estate firm Mega Or to open a restaurant in a mall that was being built in the Ariel settlement.

“As you know, McDonald’s Israel, headed by Omri Padan, blatantly boycotts the citizens and territories of the State of Israel beyond the Green Line,” Dagan wrote. “This blatant boycott is not done casually, but formally and openly, as Padan emphasized in 2013 when he refused to open a branch of the chain in Ariel.

“Padan, who opposes Israel’s policy beyond the Green Line and the views of millions of citizens, wants to make a living off them and become a single supplier at Ben-Gurion Airport,” Dagan wrote.

Samaria regional council chairman Yossi Dagan attends the 14th annual Jerusalem Conference of the ‘Besheva’ group, on February 12, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

He noted that anti-boycott laws, which also apply to West Bank settlements, cover “any public call for a cultural, academic or economic boycott of any person or entity solely because of its connection to the State of Israel” and that the finance minister has the power to restrict boycott supporters from participating in government tenders.

In a response, McDonald’s Israel shifted the blame to the global McDonald’s headquarters, which, it said, did not approve branches in the West Bank.

“Alonyal (McDonald’s Israel), which opened the first McDonald’s restaurant in the Middle East in 1993, never received a permit from global McDonald’s to open restaurants in the West Bank,” the company said in a statement.

The Transportation Ministry said in a statement that it “does not deal with commercial tenders at the Airports Authority” while the Finance Ministry said “the issue does not concern us.”

The Airports Authority said in statement that “the Authority operates according to the Tenders Law,” Ynet reported.

McDonald’s used to operate two restaurants in Ben Gurion Airport but closed them in 2011 after losing to competitor Burger Ranch in a tender. At the time Ynet reported that the two restaurants at the airport were estimated to have annual sales of some NIS 30 million ($8 million).

Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Six Day War. Today, more than 400,000 settlers live in the West Bank. Most of the international community considers the settlements illegal and an impediment to the creation of an independent Palestinian state. Israel sees the territory as disputed and says the fate of the settlements must be resolved in peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

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