Gazan Palestinians Prepare to Taste Home-Produced Real Thing

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip will soon be making the Real Thing as Coca-Cola prepares to open its first bottling plant in the blockaded coastal enclave.

Coke’s local franchise expects to complete delivery of plant equipment this week, Zahi W. Khouri, chairman of the National Beverage Co., said today in a telephone interview. Production is forecast to begin in late 2015, he said.

The $10 million plant will employ 200 people and create as many as 5,000 more indirect jobs in the impoverished territory of 1.8 million people, helping to ease unemployment estimated at 50 percent by the United Nations.

While Khouri produces Coca-Cola in the West Bank, Gaza has had its Coke trucked in. The new Coke factory will join a Pepsi bottling facility in the territory.

The project had to be approved by Israel’s Shin Bet security service and co-ordinated with several Israeli agencies, creating bureaucratic delays, Khouri said. “This project is almost three years old,” he said.

Israel, citing security reasons, has blockaded Gaza since Hamas militants overran the enclave in 2007, and it controls the entry of goods there from its territory. Once open, the plant will require Israeli permission to bring in raw materials from Turkey and Jordan, as well as the famous secret-formula concentrate from a Coca-Cola plant in Europe, Khouri added.

“It’s difficult to be self-sufficient in anything in Gaza,” Khouri said.

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