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December 17, 2018 2:39 pm

Airbnb Refutes Israeli Government Claim It Reversed West Bank Settlement Ban

avatar by Barney Breen-Portnoy

A woman talks on the phone at the Airbnb office headquarters in the SOMA district of San Francisco, California, Aug. 2, 2016. Photo: Reuters / Gabrielle Lurie.

The Israeli Tourism Ministry claimed on Monday that Airbnb had backtracked on its recent decision to remove listings in West Bank settlements, but this was subsequently refuted by the home-renting company.

What is not disputed is that a visiting delegation of Airbnb officials — led by the company’s head of global policy and public affairs, Chris Lehane — met with Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin in Jerusalem on Monday.

Following that sit-down, Levin’s office published a statement in Hebrew saying that Airbnb would not be implementing the settlement ban — announced last month — and that the company would maintain dialogue with the Israeli government.

However, after media outlets picked that statement up, Airbnb responded with a clarification in English, saying:

“The reports issued earlier today are inaccurate. Airbnb expressed its unequivocal rejection of the BDS movement and communicated its commitment to develop its business in Israel, enabling more tourists from around the world to enjoy the wonders of the country and its people. We are here to meet with a variety of stakeholders and as a result of our meetings have an even deeper understanding that this is an incredibly complex and emotional issue. Airbnb communicated that we are developing the tools needed to implement our policy and that process includes continuing our dialogue with the Government of Israel and other stakeholders.”

Adding to the confusion, a number of Israeli journalists had previously received a statement in Hebrew from Airbnb similar in substance to that of the Tourism Ministry.

Airbnb’s move to delist settlement offerings was widely panned by Israeli government officials, as well as a number of prominent Jewish groups around the world.

“We concluded that we should remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians,” Airbnb said in a Nov. 19 statement. “We know that people will disagree with this decision and appreciate their perspective.”

“This is a controversial issue,” the company added. “There are many strong views as it relates to lands that have been the subject of historic and intense disputes between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. Airbnb has deep respect for those views. Our hope is that someday sooner rather than later, a framework is put in place where the entire global community is aligned so there will be a resolution to this historic conflict and a clear path forward for everybody to follow. As of today, this is an aspirational hope. People of goodwill have been seeking this goal for decades but we continue to hope for a durable, lasting peace.”

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