Consumer products giant Unilever Plc (UN) Wednesday said it signed a deal to continue the sale of its Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Israel.
The company announced the sell-off of the Israeli branch of the ice cream brand for an undisclosed sum to Avi Zinger, whose American Quality Products already has the license to sell Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in the country.
The move by Unilever comes after Ben & Jerry’s, which has an independent board, said last summer that it was stopping sales in the territory, which has been occupied by Israel since the Six Day War in 1967. Palestinians want that land for a state of their own and supporters have come together for a global campaign known as “BDS,” which stands for boycott, divest and sanction and encourages people to avoid buying from companies, which operate in the area.
Unilever’s sale to Zinger was taken by Ben & Jerry’s independent board’s last summer.
Ben & Jerry’s and its board chair, Anurandha Mittal, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Sources inside the company said the board is likely to meet soon to discuss the issue. Mittal was seen as being the original face behind the earlier decision to pull out of Israel.
Ben & Jerry’s decision to pull out of parts of Israel last year was controversial and triggered several states including Florida, Texas, New Jersey and Colorado to start divesting their shares of Unilever.
A representative for activist investor Nelson Peltz, who is set to join Unilever’s board next month, said in a statement that Trian Partners “commends the Unilever team and Avi Zinger for reaching this new arrangement to keep Ben & Jerry’s in Israel and ensure its ice cream stays available to all consumers. Respect and tolerance have prevailed.”
The Israel government sees any efforts to boycott business in the country as a threat to its economy. After learning of Ben & Jerry’s decision last year, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid instructed consulates in the United States to urge Unilever to reverse Ben & Jerry’s decision.
“The Ben & Jerry’s factory in Israel is a microcosm of the diversity of Israeli society,” said Lapid, who is also the country’s next prime minister. “Today’s victory is a victory for all those who know that the struggle against BDS is, first and foremost, a struggle for partnership and dialogue, and against discrimination and hate.”
American Quality Products said it will continue to sell Ben & Jerry’s under Hebrew and Arabic names.
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