Ben & Jerry's CEO Avi Zinger announced that he has reached a settlement with Unilever that will enable the ice cream manufacturer's continued activities in Israel, including in Judea and Samaria. Unilever said that it had sold its business interests in Israel to Zinger, the owner of American Quality Products (AQP), the current Israel-based licensee.
In its statement Unilever added, "The new arrangement means Ben & Jerry’s will be sold under its Hebrew and Arabic names throughout Israel and the West Bank, under the full ownership of its current licensee."
The agreement will bring to an end a controversy that erupted in July 2021, when Unilever announced that it was halting sales of Ben & Jerry's ice cream in Judea and Samaria. At the time Unilever said, "We believe that the sale of our ice cream in the occupied Palestinian territories is not consistent with our values." Ben & Jerry's added that it would not renew its distribution agreement for the area but that the ice cream could continue being distributed within Israel's pre-1967 borders under a different agreement.
Unilever faced harsh criticism over the matter at the public level and came under legal attack in the US. Israel campaigned in the US against Unilever's decision in coordination with state governors that had legislated against BDS activities.
The new agreement stresses that Zinger will be permitted to manufacture and sell Ben & Jerry's ice cream with no time limits, no restrictions and no discrimination throughout Israel, Judea and Samaria. The agreement ensures the continued operations of Ben & Jerry's factory in Beer Tuvia, and the jobs of hundreds of employees there as well as the livelihoods of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians responsible for distributing and servicing the products.
Zinger said, "I am very happy that after long months of campaigning we have succeeded in ensuring the continued production and sales of the Ben & Jerry's ice cream that is loved by all our customers, without any discrimination, throughout Israel, Judea and Samaria. I thank Unilever for its readiness to reach a solution and its resolute stand against the BDS movement. This was a protracted and complicated struggle crossing borders and population groups. This was a major victory over BDS for us and for everybody who believes in cooperation and coexistence, and a stinging defeat for those who espouse discrimination and boycotts."
Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid tweeted, "Antisemitism won't beat us, even in ice cream. We will fight against de-legitimization and the BDS movement on every front."
Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shlomo Ne'eman said, "The reason that Unilever has retracted its scandalous decision to boycott the citizens of Judea and Samaria and not market Ben & Jerry's ice cream in these regions is not because it understands the immorality of this step but because behind the settlers of Judea and Samaria there are many supporters who say no to a boycott."
Unilever said it had, "Used the opportunity of the past year to listen to perspectives on this complex and sensitive matter and believes this is the best outcome for Ben & Jerry’s in Israel. The review included extensive consultation over several months, including with the Israeli government. "Unilever rejects completely and repudiates unequivocally any form of discrimination or intolerance. Antisemitism has no place in any society. We have never expressed any support for the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement and have no intention of changing that position.
Unilever concluded, "Unilever is very proud of our business in Israel which supplies everyday household products to people across the country. Today, Unilever Israel employs around 2,000 people of diverse backgrounds, has four local manufacturing plants, and works with a network of around 2,000 local suppliers and service providers - helping to support the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Israelis across its value chain."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on June 30, 2022.
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