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Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told the head of Ben & Jerry’s parent company, Unilever, Tuesday that the ice cream maker’s move to halt sales in “the Occupied Palestinian Territory” could carry “severe consequences.”
“Prime Minister Bennett spoke with Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever which owns Ben & Jerry’s and made it clear that he views with utmost gravity the decision by Ben & Jerry’s to boycott Israel and added that this is a subsidiary of Unilever, which has taken a clearly anti-Israel step,” the prime minister’s office said on Twitter.
“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.”
The British consumer goods conglomerate acquired Vermont-based Ben & Jerry’s in 2000.
The threatening statement comes after Ben & Jerry’s caved to pressure by online protesters, announcing Monday it would halt sales in “the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”
“We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT),” the company said in a statement.
The term “Occupied Palestinian Territories” has been used for years to describe the areas occupied by Israel since 1967 — namely the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, according to the European Council on Foreign Relations.
The ice cream maker clarified that it’s not pulling out of Israel, where it will continue to sell ice cream.
When Unilever acquired Ben & Jerry’s in 2000, the companies crafted an unusual agreement that gave an independent Ben & Jerry’s board control over the subsidiary’s social mission and policies.
In a statement issued Monday, Unilever said that it has “always recognized the right of [Ben & Jerry’s] and its independent Board to take decisions about its social mission.”
“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a very complex and sensitive situation,” the company added.
“As a global company, Unilever’s brands are available in more than 190 countries and in all of them, our priority is to serve consumers with essential products that contribute to their health, wellbeing and enjoyment.
“We remain fully committed to our presence in Israel, where we have invested in our people, brands and business for several decades.”
However, Anuradha Mittal, the chair of Ben & Jerry’s independent board, told NBC News that Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s have clashed over the move.
Mittal said Ben & Jerry’s wanted to release a stronger statement that emphasized the company’s commitment to social justice — and did not vow to remain in Israel.
But Unilever overrode that decision and released the Ben & Jerry’s statement on Monday without board approval, she told NBC News.
“I am saddened by the deceit of it,” Mittal told the news outlet.
“They are trying to destroy the soul of the company. We want this company to be led by values and not be dictated by the parent company.”
Representatives for Unilever did not immediately return The Post’s request for comment.
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