Israeli PM Bennett to Unilever CEO: Pulling Ben & Jerry's from West Bank shops will have 'severe consequences'July 20, 2021
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Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke to Unilever CEO Alan Jope after the company's subsidiary Ben & Jerry's announced that it will no longer sell its products in the West Bank due to the presence of Jewish settlements in the territory.
The ice cream brand announced Monday that it is ending its license agreement with its Israeli manufacturer and distributor, and that the ice cream will no longer be available in "Occupied Palestinian Territory." Bennett notified Jope that Israel will not let this go without a response.
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"Prime Minister Bennett emphasized that from the perspective of the State of Israel, this is an action that has severe consequences, including legal, and it will take strong action against any boycott directed against its citizens," Bennett's official Twitter account tweeted Tuesday morning.
Bennett's office said the prime minister told Jope that Israel views the decision with "utmost gravity" and that Unilever, as Ben & Jerry's parent company, "has taken a clearly anti-Israel step."
Ben & Jerry's issued a statement Monday declaring that "it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory," although it will remain in Israel.
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Israel has had a presence in the West Bank since taking the land from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War. An agreement between Israel and Palestinians in 1995, two years after the Oslo Accords established the Palestinian Authority, divided the territory into three regions: Area A, which is controlled and governed by the Palestinian Authority; Area B, in which Israel has legal jurisdiction over Jews, the PA has legal jurisdiction over Arabs, and Israel has security jurisdiction over all; and Area C, which Israel controls entirely. Multiple offers from Israel to withdraw from nearly all of the territory to establish a Palestinian state have been rejected.
Bennett issued a statement following Ben & Jerry's announcement, claiming it was branding itself "as the anti-Israel ice cream."
"This decision is morally wrong and I believe that it will become clear that it is also commercially wrong," Bennett said.
A number of supermarkets in the U.S. have already pulled or reduced its stock of Ben & Jerry's in response to the company's decision, including several kosher stores and the New York City chain Morton Williams.
"This action is taken in response to Ben & Jerry’s boycott of Jewish communities that are at the center of a territorial dispute in Israel, including the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem – inhabited by Jews for over 3,000 years," Morton Williams said in a press release.
The store's board decided to reduce the amount of the ice cream it carries by 70% and will not promote it in its circulars, the New York Post reported, with available products relocated to the "least desirable locations" of the frozen sections.
"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 Monday press release.
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"Ben & Jerry’s was acquired by Unilever in 2000," the statement continued. "As part of the acquisition agreement, we have always recognised the right of the brand and its independent Board to take decisions about its social mission. We also welcome the fact that Ben & Jerry’s will stay in Israel."
FOX Business reached out to Unilever for additional comment on the response to the Ben & Jerry's decision, but it did not immediately respond.
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