JTA – Israel’s tourism minister has threatened a “diplomatic war” with travel site Booking.com over the company’s decision this week to display a safety warning on any listings in Israeli-controlled territories in the West Bank.
A Booking.com spokesperson told the Associated Press on Monday the company would implement the warning as a reaction to recent unrest in the region, which has included Palestinian attacks on Israeli citizens, attacks by Jewish settlers on Palestinians in the West Bank and Israeli military raids in the territory that have resulted in deaths.
The company said it planned to display “banners and notifications to customers related to relevant local safety considerations” to let customers know they may be entering “disputed, conflict-affected or high-risk” areas. The warning banner is like the one the company currently shows for listings in Ukraine, a country at war, Booking.com said.
Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov told Ynet that the Booking.com decision was “political,” and that the Israeli government was prepared to fight a “diplomatic war,” according to a Reuters report. He disputed the company’s stated reasoning that areas of the West Bank had become unsafe for travel.
“Millions of tourists visit Israel, including this area,” he said, adding that “at the end of the day, there is no problem.”
The Palestinian Liberation Organization told Reuters it supported the Booking.com move but said the company “must focus on the colonial settlements of the Israeli occupation.” A Booking.com spokesperson did not respond to a Jewish Telegraphic Agency request for comment.
Based in Amsterdam, Booking.com is one of the world’s largest travel booking sites and boasts more than 28 million listings. The site currently has warning-free listings for lodging in Israeli West Bank settlements including Ma’ale Adumim and Kfar Adumim (both of which are referred to as “Palestinian Territory, Israeli Settlement”), as well as for lodging in the Golan Heights.
Booking’s row with Israel is reminiscent of a 2018 controversy involving Airbnb, when the travel startup announced it would delist properties from West Bank settlements, before reversing its decision in the face of criticism and a lawsuit.
The reaction by Razvozov, a former Israeli judo champion from centrist political party Yesh Atid, also echoes the Israeli government’s forceful response to Ben & Jerry’s effort to stop selling its ice cream products in the West Bank.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.