Airbnb denies claims it reversed its West Bank settlement ban

Israel: Airbnb has denied a claim by Israel’s tourism minister that it did a U-turn to remove listings in the illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The news comes after Israel’s public security minister Yariv Levin alleged on Facebook that Airbnb had pledged “not to implement” its decision during a meeting between the two sides.

However, Airbnb responded by saying that the comment was inaccurate and that it was developing the tools necessary to implement its policy while it continues its talks with stakeholders.

Airbnb had announced in November that it would “remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians”, in a move that was met with anger by many Israelis.

The company said it had come to the conclusion based on an internal framework used to judge how it handles listings in occupied territories around the world.

The move will lead to the removal of around 200 listings from the Airbnb platform.

In response to the announcement, Levin at the time threatened legal action against Airbnb in the United States and Israel.

The Airbnb listings in the West Bank have long been criticised by the Palestinian community and human rights activists. In 2016, the company came under fire for labelling listed rooms and apartments in West Bank settlements as being in Israel rather than in Palestinian territories.

Settlement expansion has surged during Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s time in office, something which has some view as an obstacle to creating a viable Palestinian state.

Israeli settlements have been considered violations of international law as they are built on land which the Palestinian leaders want for their future state including occupied East Jerusalem.

Nowadays, it is estimated some 600,000 Israelis live in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.