Israel threatens AirBnB over delisted West Bank settlements
Home-renting company has faced pressure for operating in ‘illegal’ settlements
Israel plans to consult with the US government and take action against AirBnB after the home-renting company decided to remove listings in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The US firm said it had made the decision because the settlements, which are considered illegal under international law and condemned by most countries, sit at the “core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians”.
The move has been hailed by Palestinians who want to establish an independent state in territory including the West Bank captured by Israel in a 1967.
However, the West Bank and East Jerusalem is also home to more than 600,000 Jews spread across 140 settlements.
Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin called Airbnb's decision “the most wretched of wretched capitulations to the boycott efforts”, and said his country would respond by backing lawsuits by settlement listers against Airbnb in US courts.
Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan said Israel would also “approach the US government because 25 US states have sanctions against American companies that boycott Israel”.
“In this respect, there is no distinction between this part or that part of the State of Israel,” he told Israeli Army radio, asserting that the West Bank, which Israel has never annexed, should also fall under the anti-boycott protection.
The controversary marks a dramatic turnaround for AirBnB which “has previously been criticised by Palestinian officials and human rights campaigners for allowing listings of homes to rent in Israeli settlements”, reports the BBC.
Some have even questioned the timing of the San Francisco-based firm’s decision, coming just one day before Human Rights Watch was set to publish a report examining Airbnb's business in the settlements.
Reuters reports that Airbnb is considering an IPO next year after announcing in February that it would not make a public debut this year.