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 Judea and Samaria.
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 has included attacks by Palestinian Authority Arabs on Israeli citizens and the resulting counterterror operations by the Israeli military.
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 Miniser Yoel Razvozov (Yesh Atid) told a local Israeli outlet that the Booking.com decision was “political,” and that the Israeli government was prepared to fight it, according to a Reuters report. He disputed the company’s stated reasoning that areas of Judea and Samaria 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 (PLO) told Reuters it supported the Booking.com move but said the company “must focus on the colonial settlements of the Israeli occupation.” The US considers the PLO to be a terror organization.
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 cities including Ma’aleh Adumim and Kfar Adumim (both of which are referred to as “Palestinian Territory, Israeli Settlement”), as well as for lodging in the Golan Heights, which is considered part of Israel only by Israel and the United States because it is outside Israel’s pre-1967 borders.
Booking’s row with Israel is reminiscent of a 2018 controversy involving Airbnb, when the travel startup announced it would delist properties from Judea and Samaria settlements before reversing its decision in the face of criticism and a lawsuit. The reaction by Razvozov, a former Israeli judo champion from a centrist political party, is also redolent of the Israeli government’s forceful response to Ben & Jerry’s effort to stop selling its ice cream products in the Judea and Samaria.