Israeli politician calls on Ben & Jerry's to 'rethink' ban

Israeli politician calls on Ben & Jerry's to 'rethink' ban
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An Israeli politician said he expects Ben & Jerry’s to reverse its decision to stop distributing ice cream in the “Occupied Palestinian Territories” following backlash over the move.

Nir Barkat, a member of the opposition party in Israel's parliament and a former mayor of Jerusalem, criticized the ice cream maker's move to end a licensing agreement with its Israeli manufacturer.

“Whoever decides to boycott is shooting himself in the foot," Barkat said in an interview. "I think eventually they're going to get whiplash from the public and they're going to lose market share for the wrong reasons. I think that they would be smart to ... rethink the decision and move on.”

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Barkat spoke to The Hill on Tuesday as part of his trip to Washington, D.C., lobbying U.S. lawmakers to object to the Biden administration reopening a consulate to the Palestinians in Jerusalem. 

The decision by Ben & Jerry’s, which was announced on Monday, drew intense backlash from the Israeli government, the public and American grocers. The Vermont ice cream maker's decision is meant to restrict its sales in east Jerusalem and in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday spoke with the ice cream maker's parent company, Unilever, saying Ben & Jerry’s move “has severe consequences, including legal” and the Israeli government “will take strong action against any boycott directed against its citizens.”

State Department spokesman Ned Price on Tuesday did not address Ben & Jerry’s specifically but said that the Biden administration rejects the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, an organized effort to pressure Israel to change its policies toward the Palestinians. 

“We firmly reject the BDS movement, which unfairly singles out Israel,” Price said in a briefing with reporters. “While the Biden-Harris administration will fully and always respect the First Amendment rights of our citizens, of the American people, the United States will be a strong partner in fighting efforts around the world that potentially seek to delegitimize Israel and will work tirelessly to support Israel’s further integration into the international community.”

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Manhattan-based grocery chain Morton Williams, which has 15 stores in New York City and one in New Jersey, announced on Tuesday it would reduce sales of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in its stores by 70 percent, the New York Post reported

New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioOvernight Health Care: Biden expected to announce vaccine requirement for federal workers | Republican governors revolt against CDC guidance | Pfizer: Third vaccine shot 'strongly' boosts immune response against delta Cuomo ordering all New York state workers to be vaccinated or face testing Biden expected to announce vaccine requirement for federal workers this week MORE (D) also said he would boycott the ice cream brand, at least temporarily, ABC7 reported.

It is not the first time a corporation has sought to boycott the Israeli market in opposition of settlement policies. Airbnb, the vacation-rental company, announced it would end its services in Israeli settlements in 2018 but reversed that decision in 2019 under pressure from lawsuits and criticism from the Israeli government. 

Much of the international community considers that the final status of Jerusalem should be decided in direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, who hope to establish a capital of a future Palestinian state.

Jerusalem is under full Israeli control and is the capital of Israel. 

Israeli settlements in the West Bank, of which an estimated 500,000 people live, are an outgrowth of the Oslo Accord that were negotiated in the 1990s that divided the West Bank into three areas: Area A, which is under full Palestinian control; Area B, which is Palestinian civilian control and Israeli security control; and Area C, which has Israeli civil and military control.

Critics of Israel’s settlements say that the communities in Area C have grown beyond their original scope and created facts on the ground that make it difficult if not impossible to create a contingent Palestinian state while also infringing on the rights of Palestinians who reside in the areas where the settlements are built.