SodaStream, the Israeli maker of fizzy drink dispensers, is closing its controversial factory in the West Bank, the Financial Times reported Wednesday.
The move follows intense international pressure on the company, which famously led actress Scarlett Johannson to resign her role as an ambassador for the charity Oxfam after she endorsed its products in a 2014 Superbowl ad.
Sodastream has built a new facility in the Negev region in southern Israel, within the borders recognized by the international community, in a move that may defuse the controversy over its activities. The FT quoted chief executive Daniel Birnbaum as saying during a press tour of the new facility that the move was “all business” and denying it was influenced by political pressure.
The E.U., one of SodaStream’s key export markets, is currently drawing up new guidelines for labelling products made in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territories that Israel has occupied since 1967. The FT said Israeli business and political figures fear the guidelines could become a prelude to a more general boycott of Israeli goods.
Although Israel routinely comes in for criticism of its treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories, the company has argued that forcing the closure of the factory, and the loss of valuable local jobs, is hardly the best way to improve their lot.