Bennett: US consumers don’t think taking Hamas’s side is ‘cool’

PM slams Ben & Jerry’s ban on sales in settlements, says ‘boycotting Israel is the worst business move one can make’

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (right) greets Israel's envoy to the US and UN Gilad Erdan in Jerusalem, July 22, 2021 (Haim Zach/GPO)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (right) greets Israel's envoy to the US and UN Gilad Erdan in Jerusalem, July 22, 2021 (Haim Zach/GPO)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Thursday that boycotting Israel is a terrible business move, and implied that US-based ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s was siding with Hamas by banning sales in Israeli settlements.

“Whoever considers turning a boycott of Israel into a marketing or branding issue will discover that it is the worst business decision he has ever made,” Bennett said.

He spoke at IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv while meeting with a 26-person delegation of global ambassadors to the US and the UN that is currently touring Israel.

“Consumers, certainly in Israel but also in the US and other countries, don’t think that taking Hamas’s side is cool,” he continued. “We will use all measures at our disposal, including legislative.”

On Monday, Ben & Jerry’s announced that it would no longer distribute its products in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory,” apparently referring to West Bank settlements and East Jerusalem.

The news was met with furious condemnation in Israel, with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid vowing to ask dozens of US states to activate their anti-BDS laws to punish the ice cream company.

Trucks are parked at the Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream factory in the Be’er Tuvia Industrial area, July 20, 2021 (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

“Whoever boycotts Israel — whose only sin is that it is fighting against terrorism — must know that there is a price to be paid,” Bennett said.

Bennett spoke to the delegation in English, but his office circulated only a Hebrew-language transcript of the remarks.

The delegation is being hosted by Israel’s ambassador to the United States and the United Nations, Gilad Erdan.

The group arrived in Israel Thursday night for a week-long tour sponsored by the American Zionist Movement. Envoys from Kenya, Hungary, Argentina, the Czech Republic, Bhutan, the Dominican Republic, Ukraine, Tonga, Guatemala and Australia — as well as their spouses — were on the tour, in addition to representatives from Jewish organizations like March of the Living, AZM and B’nai B’rith.

“Particularly these days, when businesses are giving in to pressure from the BDS and are introducing political, anti-Israel considerations into their decisions, the importance of a visit by UN ambassadors is especially significant,” Erdan said.

He added that members of the delegations have committed to work to influence their governments’ stances at the UN and in other international forums.

Diplomats from around the world join US and UN envoy Gilad Erdan in Jerusalem, July 16, 2021 (Lazar Berman/Times of Israel)

On Tuesday, Erdan sent letters to the governors of the 35 US states that have enacted legislation against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, requesting that they sanction Ben & Jerry’s over its decision.

“I ask that you consider speaking out against the company’s decision, and taking any other relevant steps, including in relation to your state laws and the commercial dealings between Ben & Jerry’s and your state,” read the letter from Erdan, who said he coordinated the move with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

The states that have passed anti-BDS legislation include Florida, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, California, Maryland and Texas — but not Vermont, where Ben & Jerry’s is headquartered.

At a US State Department press briefing on Tuesday, spokesman Ned Price said he does not have “a reaction to offer regarding the actions of a private company” when asked about the situation, but reiterated that White House officials “firmly reject the BDS movement, which unfairly singles out Israel.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett meets with a visiting delegation of ambassadors to the UN and US. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Erdan will be leaving his post as envoy to the US as soon as a replacement is appointed, and will not continue in that post beyond the end of November. However, the former Likud minister said he plans to continue to serve as Israel’s envoy to the United Nations.

Erdan has served as envoy to the UN since July 2020 and as ambassador to the US since January of this year.

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