Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon on Sunday attacked Internet giant Google for referring to “Palestine” on its website that services the Palestinian territories, and called on the company to rethink its stance.
“Google invented the State of Palestine, which does not exist on the globe,” Danon (Likud) wrote on his Facebook profile Sunday. “It will be interesting to see if they will soon also invent the “State of Funland,” he wrote, next to an image of a colorful flag showing balloons and clouds.
On May 1, Google changed the tagline on its Palestinian edition from “Palestinian territories” to “Palestine,” a move condemned by some Israeli officials.
In Sunday’s Facebook post, Danon called on Google cofounder and CEO Larry Page to reconsider the name change, which, according to the deputy minister, “strengthens violence and terror.” He refused to further elaborate on the matter when asked by The Times of Israel to comment.
A spokesman for Google Israel was not available on Sunday for comment. Last month, Google spokesman Nathan Tyler told the BBC that the Internet company was “following the lead” of several international bodies. In November, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly voted to upgrade “Palestine” to a nonmember state, henceforth referring to the entity as the “State of Palestine.”
The term “Palestine” is contentious in Israel, 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.
A few days after Google’s “Palestine” move, Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin sent an angry letter to Page, asking him to reconsider, because no state of Palestine currently exists. Creating a Google homepage for Palestine would only serve to entrench the Palestinians’ view “that they can further their political aims through one-sided actions rather than through negotiations and mutual agreement,” Elkin wrote. “Such a decision is, in my opinion, not only mistaken, but could also negatively impinge on the efforts of my government to bring about direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”
A few days later, Elkin reiterated his criticism in the Knesset plenum, calling on all parties — “without coalition or opposition” — to condemn Google’s step, because it distances Israelis and Palestinians from returning to the negotiating table.
“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. “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.”