Israel Warns Unilever Against Ice Cream Subsidiary Ben & Jerry Move To Exit Country

The Israeli Government on Tuesday warned consumer goods company Unilever Plc (UN,ULVR.L,UL) of "severe consequences" over its subsidiary Ben & Jerry's decision to stop the sale of ice cream in Israeli-occupied territories.

In a phone call made to Unilever Chief Executive Officer Alan Jope, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the move was a "glaring anti-Israel measure" and the government would move "aggressively against any boycott measure targeting civilians."

On Monday, the ice cream maker had released a statement stating that it would not renew the license agreement with its Israeli partner once it expires at the end of next year. The company said that the sale of its products in Palestinian occupied portions is "inconsistent with its values".

Earlier, the Vermont-based company had come under pressure from pro-Palestinian groups to shut down its business in Israel and Jewish settlements in West Bank, which it has been operating since 1987 through its partner, Ben & Jerry's Israel.

Worldwide, many countries consider the Israeli settlements in Palestine as illegal but Israel is not of the same opinion. Ben & Jerry, which was acquired by Unilever in 2000, is known for its support for social justice schemes and this recent move can be seen as one of those as well.

Unilever acquired the ice cream maker in a deal, which allows the latter to operate with more autonomy than other subsidiaries, including having given legal powers to an independent board to make decisions over its social mission, brand integrity and policies.

Regarding the move to not renew the license, Ben & Jerry said that the company would continue to operate in Israel with a different agreement, under which there will not be sales in the West Bank, among areas where Palestinians seek statehood.

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