Unilever today announced it has reached a new arrangement for Ben & Jerry’s in Israel which will ensure the ice cream stays available to all consumers.
The company has sold its Ben & Jerry’s business interests in Israel to Avi Zinger, the owner of American Quality Products Ltd (AQP), the current Israel-based licensee. The new arrangement means Ben & Jerry’s will be sold under its Hebrew and Arabic names throughout Israel and Judea and Samaria under the full ownership of its current licensee.
Under the terms of Unilever’s acquisition agreement of Ben & Jerry’s in 2000, Ben & Jerry’s and its independent Board were granted rights to take decisions about its social mission, but Unilever reserved primary responsibility for financial and operational decisions and therefore has the right to enter this arrangement.
The new business arrangement follows a Unilever review of Ben & Jerry’s in Israel after the brand and its independent Board announced last year its decision to discontinue sales of its ice cream in Judea and Samaria.
"Unilever has 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 company explained, "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 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".
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid spoke in the last few days with Avi Zinger and with Unilever CEO, Alan Jope.
Lapid responded to the decision: "Antisemitism will not defeat us, not even when it comes to ice-cream. We will fight delegitimization and the BDS campaign in every arena, whether in the public square, in the economic sphere or in the moral realm.
“The Ben & Jerry's factory in Israel is a microcosm of the diversity of Israeli society. 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."
“I’d also like to thank Unilever for the action they have taken to resolve this matter.”
Economy Minister Orna Barbivai added: "Ben & Jerry’s ice cream will continue to be manufactured here and sold in every location, it will continue to contribute to the economy and its workforce. This is a victory for all Israelis, and a defeat for the boycotters.”