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Unilever CEO says fully committed to Israel amid Ben & Jerry’s row By Reuters 



© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Tubs of ice-cream are seen as a labourer works at Ben & Jerry’s factory in Be’er Tuvia, Israel July 20, 2021. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

(Reuters) – Unilever (NYSE:)’s chief executive on Thursday said the company was “fully committed” to Israel, days after coming under Israeli pressure over a decision by its subsidiary Ben & Jerry’s to end ice cream sales in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The Ben & Jerry’s ice cream brand took its decision after pressure from pro-Palestinian groups over its business in Israel and Jewish settlements in the West Bank, handled through a licensee partner since 1987.

Most countries consider Israeli settlements on Palestinian land to be illegal. Israel disputes this.

“I think if there’s one message I want to underscore … it’s that Unilever remains fully committed to our business in Israel,” CEO Alan Jope told investors during an earnings call.

He said the group had invested 1 billion shekels ($306 million) in Israel over the past decade and was invested in its startup culture and social programmes.

“This was a decision taken by Ben & Jerry’s and its independent board … and we always recognise the importance of that agreement,” he said.

Ben & Jerry’s, which has built a reputation as a supporter of social justice causes, such as the Black Lives Matter movement and LGBTQ+ rights campaigns, was acquired by Unilever in 2000 in a deal allowing it to operate with more autonomy than other subsidiaries.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ben-jerry-israel-idTRNIKBN2EQ0ML Unilever on Tuesday about “severe consequences” from Ben & Jerry’s decision, calling it an anti-Israel step.

The decision has led to a clash between Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s independent board, whose chair says it was not consulted on the decision to stay in Israel under a “different arrangement”.

($1 = 3.2704 shekels)

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