Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned Unilever Plc Chief Executive Officer Alan Jope that Ben & Jerry’s plans to halt sales in Jewish West Bank settlements and areas of east Jerusalem will have “serious repercussions, legal and otherwise.”
Bennett said the Unilever ice cream brand had taken a “blatantly anti-Israel step” and that the government would act aggressively against any boycott aimed at its citizens. The territories, captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, are claimed by the Palestinians as the core of a future state.
Ben & Jerry’s, founded in Vermont in 1978, has a history of publicly embracing socially progressive causes, from same-sex marriage to the Black Lives Matter movement. When it was purchased by consumer goods giant Unilever two decades ago, Ben & Jerry’s insisted on keeping its own board and maintaining independence over its social mission and brand integrity.
“We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” the maker of flavors such as Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey said in a statement Monday.
The company plans to end a long-standing partnership at the end of next year with the licensee that manufactures Ben & Jerry’s in Israel and distributes it in the region.