Israel warns Unilever of 'consequences' for halting Ben & Jerry's sales

Jerusalem (AFP) –


Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday warned consumer goods giant Unilever that its subsidiary Ben & Jerry's decision to stop selling ice cream in the occupied Palestinian territories would have "severe consequences".

In a call with Unilever's CEO Alan Jope, Bennett said that he "views with utmost gravity" what he labelled "the decision by Ben & Jerry's to boycott Israel," a statement from the prime minister's office said.

"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 statement said.

Ben & Jerry's announced on Monday that selling ice cream in the Israel-occupied Palestinian territories was "inconsistent with our values", although it said it planned to keep selling its products in Israel.

The West Bank and East Jerusalem have been under Israeli control since 1967. Roughly 475,000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank, in communities widely regarded as illegal under international law, alongside some 2.8 million Palestinians.

Founded in the United States in 1978, Ben & Jerry's is known for championing progressive causes, including protecting the environment and promoting human rights.

Bennett, who leads an ideologically diverse coalition including left-wing critics of the occupation, is a long-standing supporter of West Bank settlements and previously led an influential settler lobbying council.

Bennett's centrist foreign minister, Yair Lapid, also condemned the move by Ben & Jerry's, blasting it Monday as "a disgraceful capitulation to anti-Semitism".

Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu also reacted, saying on Twitter that "now we Israelis know which ice cream NOT to buy".