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Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s parent company said Friday that they had failed to reach an accord over whether their Israeli subsidiary should be allowed to market its products in the West Bank, which is occupied. The parties were unable to reach an agreement during two weeks of mediation, according to a letter to US District Judge Andrew Carter from a Ben & Jerry’s lawyer.
Carter is being asked to restore the company’s request for a preliminary injunction to prevent Unilever from selling the Israeli ice cream business to local licensee Avi Zinger.
Unilever says that the sale has already been completed and cannot be reversed. A Unilever lawyer has said the company is ready for a hearing on the proposed injunction.
Unilever (Burlington, Vermont-based Ben & Jerry’s was acquired by Unilever in 2000) was sued on July 5 by Ben & Jerry’s (Unilever sold the Israeli business to maintain its promise to let the maker of Half Baked, Cherry Garcia, and Chunky Monkey protect its brand, the company claimed.).
Because Unilever reneged on its promise to let Ben & Jerry’s maintain its brand by selling the Israeli business, the company was sued by Ben & Jerry’s in July 2021. Because it was “inconsistent” with its values, Ben & Jerry’s ended ice cream sales in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories in July 2021.
Israel condemned the move, and Unilever stock and bond prices fell as a result.
Unilever has said Ben & Jerry’s had the right 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 more than 400 brands including Dove soap, Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Knorr soup and Vaseline skin lotion.
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