Ben & Jerry's ice cream parlor
Ben & Jerry's ice cream parloriStock

Ben & Jerry's and its parent company, Unilever, plan to seek mediation over the disputed sale of the ice cream maker's Israeli business to a local licensee, Reuters reported Thursday.

In a letter quoted by the news agency, a lawyer for Ben & Jerry's said the companies wanted to "attempt to resolve their dispute through expedited formal mediation" instead of litigating, and would use "best efforts" to finish within two weeks.

The letter was filed just 20 minutes before a scheduled hearing on the matter in Manhattan federal court.

Lawyers for Ben & Jerry's and Unilever did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Unilever caused an uproar last year when it announced that it will stop selling the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Judea and Samaria.

However, in late June, Unilever reached a deal to sell the rights to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Israel, circumventing its own boycott of Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria.

Under the new arrangement, Unilever has sold its Ben & Jerry’s business interests in Israel to Avi Zinger, the owner of American Quality Products Ltd., the current Israel-based licensee.

The ice cream will be sold exclusively under Ben & Jerry’s Hebrew and Arabic names in Israel – including Judea and Samaria.

While Israeli leaders lauded the decision, Ben & Jerry’s condemned the move, declaring Judea and Samaria “Occupied Palestinian Territory”.

On July 5, Ben & Jerry’s sued Unilever in a bid to block the sale of the Israeli business to Zinger, saying Unilever had guaranteed Ben & Jerry's the right to protect its brand when buying the company in 2000. read more

Unilever countered that it was "fully empowered" to conduct the sale, which could not be undone because it has already closed.

It also said Ben & Jerry's could not show irreparable harm, and that prolonging the impasse risked exposing both companies to further "intense public criticism."