Nov. 19 (UPI) -- Airbnb removed all home rental listings in Israeli-occupied settlements in the West Bank on Monday, drawing praise from Palestinians and condemnation from Israelis.
When searching for the phrase "West Bank" on the website, users are taken to a post on "Listings in disputed regions."
The worldwide rental services company said about 200 homes were impacted.
Airbnb said listings were previously allowed in Israeli settlements in the West Bank "because we believe that people-to-people travel has considerable value." But it changed its policy after speaking to experts, and weighing the pros and cons of continuing the service.
"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," the company said. "We know that people will disagree with this decision and appreciate their perspective.
"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."
The U.N. Human Rights Council and the U.N. Security Council have said settlements on land captured by Israel are illegal under international law.
"In essence they are helping to broker rentals on land stolen from Palestinians, for which those Palestinians themselves ... are barred from entering," Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director of Human Rights Watch, said to NPR.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called it an "initial positive step" but "we reiterate our call upon the U.N. Human Rights Council to release the database of companies profiting from the Israeli colonial occupation. Israeli settlements are not just an obstacle to peace but defy the very definition of peace."
Israel's Tourism Minister Yariv Levin described the decision as a "disgraceful surrender" and his agency plans to take action to "limit the company's activity throughout the country."
He instructed the ministry to "implement a special program to encourage tourism and accommodation in vacation apartments throughout Judea and Samaria."
"Airbnb blacklists Jewish apartments in Judea and Samaria -- not Palestinian apartments, not apartments in Turkish-occupied Cyprus, not in Moroccan-occupied Sahara, not in Tibet or the Crimea," Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to the United States, said to the Jerusalem Post. "Airbnb's policy is the very definition of anti-semitism. No one should use its services."
Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan wants to check with U.S. officials to see if the move violated American laws against Israeli boycotts that exist in 25 out of 50 states.
Airnb operates in 191 countries and regions, and more than 81,000 cities.
"We must consider the impact we have and act responsibly," the company said. "Accordingly, we have developed a framework for evaluating how we should treat listings in occupied territories."
That includes treating situations on a case-by-case approach, consulting with experts, assessing potential safety risks for hosts and guests, evaluating whether they contribute to existing human suffering and whether listing in the occupied territory is linked to the larger dispute in the region.
"When we applied our decision-making framework, 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," the company said.