Unilever’s CEO Says Company ‘Fully Committed’ to Israel

The chief executive of Unilever on Thursday said the global consumer goods giant remains “fully committed” to doing business in Israel, distancing himself from this week’s announcement by Ben & Jerry’s ice cream brand that it would stop serving Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and contested east Jerusalem, the Associated Press reported. But CEO Alan Jope gave no indication that Unilever would force Ben & Jerry’s to roll back its controversial decision. The Ben & Jerry’s announcement is one of the strongest steps by a well-known company against Israel’s settlements, which are widely seen by the international community as illegal. The Israeli government has condemned the decision, accusing the company of joining a Palestinian-led boycott campaign against Israel. It has urged 35 American states with anti-boycott laws to punish Unilever. In a conference call with investors, Jope said that Ben & Jerry’s, which has a long history of social activism, had made the decision on its own. He noted that under its purchase agreement with Ben & Jerry’s in 2000, the iconic ice cream company maintained broad independence over its social justice policies and that Unilever respected that arrangement. “Obviously it’s a complex and sensitive matter that elicits very strong feelings,” he said. “If there is one message I want to underscore in this call, it’s that Unilever remains fully committed to our business in Israel.” That includes a new 35 million euro ($41 million) razor factory, corporate offices and facilities that employ some 2,000 people, hundreds of millions of dollars of investment and support for “social programs,” he said. It remained unclear whether his comments would calm the uproar in Israel. Read more.

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