After Suspending Ban on Settlements, Airbnb VP Tours West Bank

Settler leader says company representative who traveled to scene of terror attack 'was very impressed by coexistence between Jews and Palestinians'

File photo: Road sign pointing towards an Airbnb apartment in the Esh Kodesh outpost, West Bank, November 20, 2018.
AFP

A day after Airbnb announced that it has suspended the implementation of its prior decision to remove listings in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the company's Vice President Chris Lehane visited West Bank settlements and met with prominent settler leader Yossi Dagan.

According to Dagan, Lehane was "very impressed by the coexistence between Jews and Palestinians at the Barkan Industrial Park," the site of a deadly attack that claimed the lives of two Israeli workers shot to death by a Palestinian worker in October.

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Dagan added that Airbnb's representative "repeated the message that the company is against BDS."

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Lehane is expected to hold another meeting on Tuesday evening with Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, after the two met in Jerusalem on Monday, following which Airbnb announced the suspension of its West Bank settlement ban.

"Our policy will not be implemented," Airbnb said in a statement. "The company will continue its dialogue with the Israeli government."

Levin said the company's decision “is a step in the right direction” and added he will “continue to make sure all Israeli citizens get equal treatment, and keep on strengthening tourism in Israel, including in Judea and Samaria,” referring to the biblical name of the West Bank.

Following the release of the Hebrew-language statement, Airbnb told Haaretz that it was "released in error" by staff in Israel and issued an English-language statement saying that "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."

The statement added that the company told the Israeli government 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."

Airbnb announced on November 19 that it had decided to remove its listings in West Bank settlements, considered illegal for taking up land where Palestinians seek statehood by most world powers.

The Israeli government has been up in arms over Airbnb’s announcement, and ministers have been seeking retribution in various ways. After the announcement, Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, the point-man in the government to combat pro-Palestinian boycotts, approached five U.S. governors and requested that they act against the company's decision and also called for a boycott of Airbnb and promoted one of its rivals.

There are 200 Airbnb listings in West Bank settlements. Airbnb has more than 22,000 hosts in Israel.

Airbnb never said it intends to remove Jewish homes in East Jerusalem, territory Israel annexed in a move not recognized abroad and which the Palestinians want for a future capital, or the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war.

Yotam Berger contributed to this report.