Deputy foreign minister urges revocation of ‘Google Palestine’

Ze’ev Elkin criticizes technology giant’s recent decision to upgrade from ‘Palestinian Territories’; firm defends move as nonpolitical

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin on Tuesday condemned Internet search giant Google for deciding to change the “Palestinian Territories” edition of its search engine to “Palestine.”

Elkin said that such a decision endangers the peace process and should not be carried out by a hi-tech company, as the issue is political by nature.

“We do not think that a large and respected company like Google, which deals in technology, should enter the arena of policy making,” the deputy foreign minister said at a Knesset Science and Technology Committee hearing. “The Israeli stance in the matter is well known — a Palestinian state, if established, will be the result of direct negotiations with the Palestinians,” he said.

The move by Google, which went into effect May 1, has come under fire from other Israeli officials. Last month, Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon chided the search firm and asked if it would be inventing “the state of Funland” next.

Google representative Charles Hale, who also attended the committee meeting Tuesday, addressed Elkin’s claims and stated that the company does not purport to recognize the Palestinian Authority as a political entity with the status of a state. “This is an update procedure that is performed once in a while, during which other names have been changed as well,” Hall said.

Elkin stressed that negotiations were an integral part of the peace process and that the Oslo Accords specifically forbid the Palestinian Authority from undertaking unilateral measures.

“As long as there is a unilateral option [for statehood] on the table, the PA will be disinclined to enter direct negotiations,” the deputy foreign minister said. “So, we ask of Google to reconsider their decision.”

Hale said the company’s decision was not based on political motives and was carried out only after other international organizations, such as the International Standardization Organization (ISO) and the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), undertook such changes themselves.

“These organizations have changed the domain name, and we followed suit as a technical, nonpolitical procedure,” he said.

Later Tuesday, Google International issued an official response regarding the domain change, reiterating Hall’s statements on the matter.

“While Google does not follow a single source for these decisions, we look closely at the action of a few international organizations to guide us when we update our country and region names,” read the letter.

“We are not taking a political position, but merely aim at reflecting the majority of sources we look at. We very much appreciated the opportunity we had in the meeting to discuss and explain this process in more detail,” the statement concluded.

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