REPORTING FROM RAMALLAH, WEST BANK -– People lined up on a chilly Saturday outside the new KFC outlet in Ramallah, the first of the U.S. fast-food chains to open in the Palestinian territories.
Previous attempts after the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994 to get franchise rights for KFC and other American fast-food chains such as McDonald's had failed.
Palestinians said Israeli franchise owners had demanded that Palestinians who wanted to open branch restaurants in the West Bank should get them through the Israeli company and not get their own franchise.
But Palestinian Authority laws say Palestinians who want to start local outlets of international companies should get the franchise rights directly from the company, and not through Israelis.
Palestinian entrepreneur Adeeb Bakri, owner of two department stores and three radio stations in Ramallah, among other businesses, said he had no problem getting the franchise, which will soon include a Pizza Hut.
"I went straight to the mother company ... and I said, 'I want the franchise,' and they gave it to me," he said.
He said he wasn't deterred by calls by some leftist Palestinian organizations to boycott American products because of U.S. backing of Israel.
"Why should people boycott our restaurant?" he said. "Everything we use here is 100% Palestinian; the chicken is bought at a West Bank farm, and so is the bread, and the employees are all Palestinian and almost everything else we use in the restaurant, except the recipe, which comes straight from the U.S."
When the restaurant opened its doors, workers took orders from hungry customers at the six cash registers, including families ordering buckets of chicken.
"I had KFC in the Emirates," said one patron, who waited with his wife and two children outside the restaurant for it to open. "When I heard one is opening in Ramallah, I decided to come and eat here.
-- Maher Abukhater
Photo: A Palestinian customer walks up the KFC outlet in Ramallah, which opened Saturday. Credit: Maher Abukhater / For The Times