Story at a glance
- The ice cream maker announced Monday it is ending its license agreement with its Israeli manufacturer and distributor when it expires in 2022.
- Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the decision would have “serious consequences, legal and otherwise, and that it will act aggressively against all boycott actions directed against its citizens.”
- Unilever on Monday said it recognizes the right of Ben and Jerry’s and its independent board to “take decisions about its social mission.”
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is pushing back against Ben & Jerry’s move to stop selling its products in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem, saying the ban will have “serious consequences.”
The ice cream maker announced Monday it is ending its license agreement with its Israeli manufacturer and distributor when it expires in 2022, and that the ice cream will no longer be available in “Occupied Palestinian Territory.” The company said the sale of its ice cream in the settlements is “inconsistent with our values.”
Products will continue to be sold in other areas of Israel through a different arrangement.
On Tuesday, the prime minister’s office said he spoke with Unilever CEO Alan Jope about what Bennett called a “clearly anti-Israel step.” The British consumer goods conglomerate acquired Ben & Jerry’s in 2000.
Bennett’s office said the ban would have “serious consequences, legal and otherwise, and that it will act aggressively against all boycott actions directed against its citizens,” according to The Associated Press.
Prime Minister Bennett spoke with Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever which owns Ben & Jerry’s and made it clear that he views with utmost gravity the decision by Ben & Jerry’s to boycott Israel and added that this is a subsidiary of Unilever, which has taken a clearly anti-Israel step.
— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) July 20, 2021
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in response called on U.S. states with laws against Israel boycotts to sanction the company, calling the decision “antisemitic.”
Unilever on Monday said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a “very complex and sensitive situation,” but said it recognizes the right of Ben & Jerry’s and its independent board to “take decisions about its social mission.”
“We remain fully committed to our presence in Israel, where we have invested in our people, brands and business for several decades,” Unilever said in a statement.
Pro-Palestinian activists have pushed companies to boycott Israeli settlements, with few making the move to do so. Ben & Jerry’s, which has often been outspoken on racial and social justice issues, was previously criticized for its silence during recent clashes between Israeli armed forces and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
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