Israel to 'fight' Booking.com over planned safety warning on occupied West Bank listings
Israel said on Tuesday it would fight a plan by online travel agency Booking.com to add a safety warning to listings in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, in a move that has been welcomed by Palestinian officials.
The online travel agency said it would warn customers booking accommodation in Israeli settlements in the West Bank that they were travelling to a "disputed, conflict-affected or high-risk" area that "may pose greater risks".
Israel has occupied the West Bank since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and built settlements there in violation of international law.
A spokesperson for Amsterdam-based Booking.com said on Monday that it planned to "display banners and notifications to customers related to relevant local safety considerations" for listings in the West Bank, similar to current labels for Ukraine or Cyprus.
The Booking.com spokesperson did not provide any indication that the company, whose website describes the West Bank as Palestinian territory, was taking a position on the territory's status.
Israeli Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov, however, said he had written to Booking.com and threatened "diplomatic war" by his government to reverse the decision, which he claimed was "political".
He played down the possibility that the West Bank might be dangerous for foreign visitors.
"Millions of tourists visit Israel, including this area," he told Ynet TV. "In the end of the day, there is no problem."
The Palestinian Authority's Tourism Ministry withheld comment, saying it had not been formally informed of the Booking.com decision.
However, Wasel Abu Youssef, a senior official with the umbrella Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), voiced conditional approval.
"If there is such a decision, it must focus on the colonial settlements of the Israeli occupation," he told Reuters.
The spokesperson for Booking.com, a subsidiary of US company Bookings Holdings Inc., said the final details and implementation date of the listings warning were still being discussed by the company.
In 2018, Airbnb said it would delist settlement properties, but backed off following protests by Israel and legal challenges in some US states.
Airbnb, as well as Booking.com, have long been urged by Palestinians organisations to scrap their listings in the occupied territory.
(Reuters and The New Arab Staff)