refusal to open a restaurant in a new shopping mall in the Samaria city of Ariel
due to its geographic location beyond the Green Line, as first reported by Calcalist, has sparked a wave of angry reactions and calls to boycott the fast food chain.
According to Ariel Mayor Eliyahu Shaviro, "McDonald's decision not to be part of the Ariel mall is a miserable decision discriminating against the city's residents. The entire culture and commerce issue should be left out of the political arena.
"Commerce is a bridging factor, which creates good conditions for a system of mutual relations regardless of one's religion, race or gender. The entire boycott issue dies the exact opposite, causing a rift instead of a bridge. Peace will come through cooperation in general and commerce in particular, not through imposing boycotts."
Calcalist learned Wednesday that Omri Padan, the owner of McDonald's Israel, turned down an offer to open a restaurant in the R Mall being built in Ariel by Rami Levy,
owner of Israel's
third largest Israeli retail supermarket chain Hashikma Marketing, and the Mega Or real estate company.
According to Mega Or owner Tzachi Nachmias, the real estate agents marketing the mall's commercial space, informed him that MacDonald's had refused to open a restaurant in the mall due to its location beyond the Green Line.
"The political opinions of Padan, who was one of the founders of Peace Now,
have been known for years, but those expected to be harmed by those opinions now are the residents of Ariel and the area," he said.
City of Ariel in Samaria (Photo courtesy of Lowshot)
Former Ariel Municipality Director-General Hana Golan, an Ariel mayoral candidate, slammed Padan's decision to boycott the city's new mall. According to Golan, "Padan is detached from reality. There were artists who tried to boycott the city in the past, and today they all perform at Ariel's cultural hall.
"We have overcome Pharaoh, we have overcome the boycott against the cultural hall and we will easily overcome Padan's boycott, with blue-and-white Israeli companies."
Golan added that "Padan is failing to internalize what Rami Levy understood a long time ago: Ariel is Israel and it's part of the Israeli consensus, representing all sides of the political spectrum. The city is the anchor of the Samaria settlement, and the public in Ariel and Samaria will reject the repulsive boycott on Padan's part."
According to Tzachi Nachmias, McDonald's is not alone as additional chains have expressed their discomfort with the project's location. He refused to name those chains, saying they had yet to make a final decision on the matter.
"The real estate agents told us that chains operating abroad, and others which hold the rights to international brands, are concerned that their businesses abroad will be negatively affected if they enter the mall."
The McDonald's Israel company confirmed that it had no intention of entering the mall, stating that avoiding activity beyond the Green Line "has always been the chain's policy."
Rami Levy, a Likud
member who is said to be close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,
refused to specifically comment on the companies refusing to enter the mall, but stated that the failure to open stores beyond the Green Line harmed the area's Arab population as well.
"I don't accept the inclusion of political considerations in the business world," he said. "As long as we are talking about a business operating within the borders of the State of Israel, as they are defined today, there is no reason to boycott an area or a population on political grounds.
"The Ariel mall is expected to employ both Arab and Jewish workers from the area and serve both populations. This boycott is unnecessary and harms that same Arab population these people are allegedly seeking to protect."
The mall, expected to open in late 2014 at a total investment of NIS 100 million (about $27 million) will be located next to the western entrance to Ariel. The commercial space in the two-floor mall will stretch over some 10,000 square meters (107,600 square feet) and will be joined by a five-floor office building.
Apart from a Rami Levy supermarket, the mall will include 50 other chains such as the Castro and Fox fashion brands.
The argument over the relocation of Israeli factories operating beyond the Green Line has been going on for the past decade, but it is expected to gain momentum following a letter sent recently by European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to the EU's foreign ministers, calling on them to enforce legislation regarding the labeling of products
originating beyond the 1967 borders.
Companies which have relocated their factories into the Green Line are mainly businesses with a significant operations in Europe, which could have been badly affected by continuing production in settlements.
These companies include Unilever, which relocated the Bagel-Bagel factory
from the Barkan industrial area to Safed; and Multilock, owned by giant Swedish lock manufacturer Assa Abloy, which closed its factory in Barkan and moved it to the city of Yavne.
Companies which still operate in the area include Shamir Salads, Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories,
and Barkan Mounting Systems.
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett,
who visited the Achva factory which produces halva products earlier this month, said he had no objection to the labeling of products manufactured in the territories.
"We must bring the entire world to Judea and Samaria and show them what coexistence really means," he said. "Show them factories where Jews and Arabs work together. This is the real peace between the two sides, not the Annapolis offices where no one is connected to reality."
According to Bennett, "Words don't make peace; only businesses and joint purchases make peace. We don't hate anyone. There is a desire for real coexistence here. I suggest that we agree to label products with the caption, 'Produced in the region of peace.'"