Unilever said on Wednesday it reached an agreement that will allow sales of its Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to continue in Israel.
The company sold its Ben & Jerry's business in Israel, ensuring that the product "stays available to all consumers."
In a release, Unilever said its business interests there were sold to Avi Zinger – the current Israel-based licensee and owner of American Quality Products Ltd. – for an undisclosed amount.
The ice cream will now be sold under its Hebrew and Arabic names throughout Israel and the occupied West Bank under the full ownership of American Quality Products.
Unilever said that while Ben & Jerry’s, which it acquired in 2000, and its independent board had the right to make decisions about its social mission, Unilever reserved primary responsibility for financial and operational decisions.
Ticker Security Last Change Change % UL UNILEVER PLC 45.55 +0.21 +0.47%
Israel hailed the decision.
"Antisemitism will not defeat us, not even when it comes to ice cream," Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said. "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."
Conversely, Omar Shakir, the director of Human Rights Watch for Israel and the Palestinian territories, stated that Unilever seeks to undermine Ben & Jerry's "principled decision."
"It won’t succeed: Ben & Jerry’s won’t be doing business in illegal settlements. What comes next may look and taste similar, but, without Ben & Jerry’s recognized social justice values, it’s just a pint of ice cream," he said.
Tubs of ice creams are seen inside a refrigerator at a food store in the Jewish settlement of Efrat in the Israeli-occupied West Bank July 20, 2021. (Reuters/Ronen Zvulun / Reuters)
The deal follows a Unilever review of Ben & Jerry's in Israel after the Vermont-based brand and its independent board announced last summer that it would stop selling its ice cream in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and contested east Jerusalem.
Ben & Jerry's – which has not shied away from social causes – said at the time that sales in the territories sought by the Palestinians were "inconsistent with [its] values."
Unilever reported that it had used the past year to listen to perspectives "on this complex and sensitive matter," and that it believes this action "is the best outcome for Ben & Jerry's in Israel."
The review process included consultation with Israel's 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," it said.
A refrigerator bearing the Ben and Jerry’s logo is seen at a food store in the Jewish settlement of Efrat, July 20, 2021. (Reuters/Ronen Zvulun / Reuters)
The BDS movement is a Palestinian-led grassroots campaign that promotes boycotts, divestments and economic sanctions against Israel.
The movement does not take an official position on how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be resolved, and officially rejects antisemitism.
While organizers for BDS have said they are protesting what they call Israeli oppression of Palestinians, Israel asserts that the movement has a hidden, deeper agenda aimed at delegitimizing and destroying the country.
In a statement emailed to FOX Business, George Mason University law professor Eugene Kontorovich said the agreement represents "a victory for the anti-boycott laws across America
"Unilever is yet another massive corporation that fell into the rhetorical traps of the Israel-boycott movement, only to pull back after much embarrassment and expense," he said. "Unilever's move is a public slap-down to the board of Ben & Jerry's, who have in essence had part of their brand taken out because they couldn't manage it responsibly, or non-discriminatorily."
FOX Business' requests for comment from the BDS movement and Ben & Jerry's were not immediately returned.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.