Unilever feels the heat as Israeli politicians melt down over ice cream
Not even Joe Biden’s love for the sweet summer treat will help Ben & Jerry’s case
Tel Aviv is a secular and self-confident metropolis. So the news last week that ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s was boycotting sales in East Jerusalem and the West Bank – territories it says should not be occupied by Israel — was a source of mild amusement. Jokes circulated mocking Ben & Jerry’s sanctimony and the over-the-top reaction of the Israeli government.
Many patriotic Israelis agree that the occupation, now in its 54th year, should end. But few want to take moral instruction from Ben & Jerry’s. In terms of impact, the main meltdown seems to be the backlash against its owner, Unilever, which just announced a drop in first half net profits amid rising costs (its stock fell more than 7% last week and is down more than 4% in the past month.)
While Unilever is the parent, its purchase agreement gave Ben & Jerry’s an unusual degree of autonomy. Now its ice cream subsidiary seems to have handed an unexpected bonanza to Israeli and pro-Israel US politicians, while delivering a major commercial and legal headache to its owner...