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Starbucks in Israel? Rumors Remain After Coffee Giant Closes

Image: Starbucks in Israel? Rumors Remain After Coffee Giant Closes
Lebanese policemen stand guard as activists hold a sit-in in front of a Starbucks coffee shop against their alleged support to Israel, in Beirut on January 27, 2009. (RamziI Haidar/AFP/Getty Images)

By    |   Sunday, 19 Oct 2014 12:45 PM

Though 11 years have passed since coffee giant Starbucks last operated in Israel, that hasn't stopped speculation of a return from percolating.

As part of a company response regarding their Middle East business, Starbucks answered a question about whether it's "true" the company closed its six Israel locations for "political reasons."

Vote Now: Should the U.S. Continue to Support Israel?

"No. We do not make business decisions based on political issues," read the statement, which was posted in August. "We decided to dissolve our partnership in Israel in 2003 due to the ongoing operational challenges that we experienced in that market. After many months of discussion with our partner we came to this amicable decision. While this was a difficult decision for both companies, we believe it remains the right decision for our businesses."

Starbucks' answer to the follow-up question, "Do you have plans to re-open should the opportunity arise?" may provide a clue as to why some think the popular coffee brand could return.

"When and where the business case makes sense, and we see a fit for the Starbucks brand in a market, we will work closely with a local partner to assess the feasibility of offering our brand to that community. We will therefore continue to assess all opportunities on this basis. At present, we will continue to grow our business in the Middle East as we have been very gratified by the strong reception of the brand in the region. We continue to work closely with our business partner, the Alshaya Group, in developing our plans for the region."

Be Heard: Should the U.S. Cut Back Israel Support? Vote Here

The company's words on that were part of a larger issue, in which Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who is of Israeli descent, again tried to squelch a persistent rumor regarding whether he or his company gave money to the Israeli Army.

"That is absolutely untrue," reads the Starbucks statement posted Aug. 5. "Rumors that Starbucks or Howard provides financial support to the Israeli government and/or the Israeli Army are unequivocally false. Starbucks is a publicly held company and as such, is required to disclose any corporate giving each year through a proxy statement."

Starbucks has addressed this issue before, beginning in July 2006, when in a hoax letter someone pretending to be Schultz wrote that the company pledges hundreds of millions of dollars per year, and that "with every cup you drink at Starbucks you are helping with a noble cause."

Asked about Schultz's views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Starbucks spokesman Jim Olson said, "The company and Mr. Schultz have been steadfast in urging peace in the Middle East and a stable and safe Israel. ... Mr. Schultz is a proud Jewish American."

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Though 11 years have passed since coffee giant Starbucks last operated in Israel, that hasn't stopped speculation of a return from percolating.
starbucks, in, israel, rumors, return
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2014-45-19
Sunday, 19 Oct 2014 12:45 PM
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