Burger King Embroils Itself in Mideast Politics

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Burger Kingís new Israeli outlet at Maale Adumim may turn out to be a whopper of a nightmare for the company. The Arab League announced Monday that it would consider supporting a boycott of the burger chain declared by an organization called American Muslims for Jerusalem in response to the new franchise. The reason? Maale Adumim is an Israeli settlement in the West Bank whose status remains to be settled in talks with the Palestinians, and the boycotters insist that Burger King follow the example of McDonalds, which has kept its golden arches planted firmly within Israelís pre-1967 borders.

"Political boycotts tend to have a limited impact on a company the size of Burger King," says TIME Business editor Bill Sapporito. "Although itís a hot button issue for some, itíll hardly emerge on the radar screen in the U.S. market, and the company will hope that it eventually blows over." But Burger King is taking no chances on an issue with potentially wide emotive appeal in such diverse Muslim-dominated markets as Malaysia, Indonesia and throughout the Arab world. The company plans to meet representatives of American Muslims for Jerusalem to discuss the issue. After all, as much as Burger King wants the business of hungry Israeli settlers, the last thing the flame-broiled franchise needs is to become a cause celebre for Palestinian-rights advocates to sink their teeth into.