Israeli prime minister warns will 'act aggressively' over Ben & Jerry's ending ice cream contract

The current contract is set to expire at the end of 2022.

Updated: July 20, 2021 - 5:01pm

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The office of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Tuesday it will take "aggressive action" in response to Vermont-based Ben & Jerry's decision not to renew a contract to sell ice cream in what it calls the "Occupied Palestinian" territories of the West Bank and Jerusalem.

The ice cream maker, now owned by British-based Unilever, made the announcement Monday about the contract, which expires next year.

The prime minister and his office said the decision was "a surrender to ongoing and aggressive pressure from extreme anti-Israel groups” and that the company was cooperating with “economic terrorism.”

In addition, Bennett reportedly warned Unilever's CEO that his decision will result in "serious consequences, legal and otherwise" and that Israel will "act aggressively against all boycott actions directed against its citizens.”'

Avi Zinger, the CEO of Ben & Jerry’s Israel licensee, said Unilever has long pressured him to cease distribution in the territories but he refused because he said it would violate Israeli law, according to the Associated Press

The Palestinians claim the West Bank and Jerusalem as parts of a future independent state. There are now roughly 700,000 Israelis living in settlement in those territories, the wire service also reports.

Ben & Jerry's was found in 1978 in Burlington, Vermont, by entrepreneurs Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield and sold in 2000 to British conglomerate Unilever. 

Ben & Jerry's said the decision to end the contract was based on "concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners."