Less Ben & Jerry’s, more Abraham Accords, Israeli envoy says

Israel wants Arab embassies more than it wants chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream

The Israeli envoy to the US and the UN, Gilad Erdan, on Wednesday criticised ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s for its recent decision to boycott settlements in the West Bank, saying normalisation deals with Arab states were the route to peace.

Mr Erdan said the Vermont-based ice cream firm’s boycott was “anti-Semitic” and that more Abraham Accord-style deals offered a better path for the turbulent Middle East.

“Obsession with the world's only Jewish state also encouraged companies like Ben and Jerry’s and Unilever to impose anti-Semitic boycotts on Israel,” Mr Erdan told reporters outside the UN Security Council chamber.

“As the [Abraham] Accords prove, real peace in our region is reached only when the parties come together because they want to build a better future for their children, not through boycotts or by the Security Council interfering.”

Ben & Jerry's said last week it would stop doing business in the occupied Palestinian territories, which has been handled by a licensee partner since the late 1980s.

The ice cream maker and its parent company Unilever have come under fire from several American Jewish groups over their reported support for the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement, which seeks to isolate Israel due to its treatment of Palestinians.

Dozens of US states have passed bills and orders against the BDS movement to discourage economic pressure against Israel.

The boycott decision by Ben & Jerry's spurred a backlash from Israeli leaders. US politicians from both main parties have voiced concerns over the move, while some minor New York-based grocery chains have pulled Ben & Jerry’s products from their shelves.

The UN considers the Israeli settlements, built on land captured by Israel in a 1967 war, to be illegal and a barrier to peace as they limit and fragment land Palestinians want for a state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Israel disputes this description of the settlements.

The Abraham Accords between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain were signed in Washington last September and have since been joined by Morocco and Sudan, paving the way for co-operation on trade, travel, diplomacy and security.

This month, the UAE opened its embassy in Tel Aviv and the first direct flights between Morocco and Israel took off, the latest signs of normalised relations as the Abraham Accords approach their anniversary.

“Israel and its new allies in the region are building a new future of coexistence, tolerance and co-operation,” Mr Erdan said.

While the accords received broad international support, critics say they have further eroded the weak Palestinian negotiation position with Israel and undercut their chances of achieving their goal of statehood.

Updated: July 28th 2021, 4:18 PM