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Ben & Jerry’s, Unilever fail to resolve Israeli dispute


Ben & Jerry’s and its parent Unilever said talks had broken right down to resolve their dispute over the sale of the ice cream maker’s Israeli business, which might allow its products within the occupied West Bank.

In a letter on Monday to US District Judge Andrew Carter in Manhattan, a lawyer for Ben & Jerry’s said two weeks of mediation to settle out of court proved unsuccessful.

He asked Carter to revive Ben & Jerry’s request for a preliminary injunction to dam Unilever from selling the Israeli ice cream business to local licensee Avi Zinger.

Unilever has said the sale closed on June 29 and can’t be undone. A lawyer for Unilever said in a separate letter to Carter that the corporate is ready for a hearing on the proposed injunction.

Reuters reported last week that the talks had broken down. A Ben & Jerry’s spokesman declined to comment. Unilever didn’t immediately reply to requests for comment.

Ben & Jerry’s had sued Unilever, which has owned the Burlington, Vermont-based company since 2000, on July 5.

It claimed that by selling the Israeli business, Unilever reneged on its promise to let the maker of Half Baked, Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey protect its brand. 

Ben & Jerry’s had in July 2021 said it might end ice cream sales in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories since it was “inconsistent” with its values. 

Israel condemned the move, and a few investors sold their Unilever stocks and bonds.

Most countries consider Israeli settlements within the occupied West Bank illegal.

Reuters reported last week that the mediation failed because Ben & Jerry’s didn’t need to “cave” on its social mission. 

Unilever has said Ben & Jerry’s had the proper to make its own decisions about that mission.

The battle tests how far Unilever will give its brands freedom to have social missions.

Unilever has greater than 400 brands including Dove soap, Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Knorr soup and Vaseline skin lotion.

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