Jars of ice cream are seen as a worker at the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Be’er Tuvia, Israel, July 20, 2021.
Ronen Zvulun | Reuters
Unilever CEO Alan Jope told investors the company remains committed to its Israel business during a conference call Thursday, after its subsidiary Ben & Jerry’s announced earlier this week that it would halt the sale. of its ice in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The Glacier, known for its leftist political stances, took the plunge after facing online backlash for its activities in the occupied territories. The Unilever CEO has sought to steer the parent company away from the decision, saying it was made independently by Ben & Jerry’s.
“Unilever remains fully engaged in our activities in Israel,” said Jope. “This is a decision that was made by Ben & Jerry’s and its independent board of directors pursuant to an acquisition agreement we signed 20 years ago.”
“I can assure you that we don’t intend to regularly review these topics, where sensitivity has been a long-standing issue for Ben & Jerry’s,” Jope said.
“We were aware of this decision by its brand – by the brand and its independent board of directors, but certainly [its] not our intention that every quarter we have one as fiery as this, ”Jope said.
Ben & Jerry’s announced Monday that it will not renew its partnership with its licensee, which makes and distributes the company’s ice cream in Israel in the region, when the partnership agreement expires at the end of next year.
However, Ben & Jerry’s plans to stay in Israel through another arrangement the company has yet to announce.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett pledged to act aggressively against Ben & Jerry’s decision, telling Unilever CEO the move would have “serious consequences, legal and otherwise.”
In response to Ben & Jerry’s decision, Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma called for a freeze on all sales of Ben & Jerry’s in its home state in accordance with state laws.
Oklahoma passed an anti-boycott of Israel law in 2020, which recognizes Israel as a major trading partner and prevents the state from doing business with any company engaged in a boycott of Israel.
Ben & Jerry’s is not the first company to find itself embroiled in a controversy over business in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. In 2018, rental site Airbnb said it banned listings for Israeli properties in the West Bank, territory that Palestinians claim must be part of their state.
– The Associated Press contributed to this report.