Internet behemoth Google changed the tagline on its Palestinian edition from “Palestinian territories” to “Palestine” on Thursday, in a controversial move that lends online credence to local aspirations of statehood.
Israeli officials indicated their displeasure with the move. Last November, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly voted to upgrade the status of its Palestinian mission to that of non-member observer state. The move was met with strong Israeli and US criticism.
The term “Palestine” is contentious largely because the final status of the Palestinian territories and their borders has yet to be settled through negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. Talks between the parties have been largely at a standstill for over four years, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s government demanding several preconditions ahead of their resumption.
“Google is not a political or diplomatic entity, so they can call anything by any name, it has no diplomatic or political significance,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told The Times of Israel on Friday. “That said, of course, there can be many questions raised by this change, regarding Google’s policy and the meaning of all that. Precisely because Google is not the UN or any international diplomatic institution, this begs the question of whether there is room for any political stance on controversial issues on behalf of what is basically a private Internet company.”
Google has not yet commented on the change, which appears on both the Arabic and English versions of the local homepage.