Online travel agency Booking.com added warnings on Friday to listings in West Bank locations. The new alert, a small text advisory at the top of search results, urges customers searching for rentals to review their government’s travel advisories before booking in the area, “which may be considered conflict-affected.”
It applies to both Israeli settlements and Palestinian locales.
The advisory does not appear in individual listings, only in search results for a specific settlement, city or town.
A spokesperson for Booking.com said the company plans “to roll out banner notifications in more than 30 regions over the next few months to ensure that customers have the information they need to make informed decisions about destinations they are considering, which may be categorized as disputed or conflict-affected areas and which may pose greater risks to travelers.”
She added that such a banner has already been introduced in Northern Cyprus, Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and South Ossetia.
The Foreign Ministry said in a statement Saturday evening that Booking.com had originally intended far harsher wording, potentially marking the region as “occupied” and saying visits entailed “human rights risks.”
The ministry claimed credit for intense work it said dissuaded the company from using such wording.
The travel agency announced that it would take this step earlier this month, sparking backlash from the Israeli government, which threatened a “diplomatic war” in response.
Foreign tourism companies like Airbnb, Booking.com and TripAdvisor long have sparked controversy for allowing West Bank settlers to post places for rent, with no mention that these settlements are considered a violation of international law. Many rental sites, from suburban-type settlements near Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem to far-flung outposts deep in the occupied territories, list their location only as Israel.
Some half-million Jewish settlers live in the West Bank, which Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War. The Palestinians seek these lands as parts of a future independent state.
Human Rights Watch described the travel warning on Friday as a “welcome step” to help prevent customers from unwittingly landing in illegal settlements. But the group urged tourism companies to go further by removing their listings in West Bank settlements.
“Notification in and of itself doesn’t end Booking’s contribution to serious rights abuses,” said Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine Director for Human Rights Watch. “The company should stop brokering rentals in illegal settlements in places like the occupied West Bank.”
But stopping risks Israeli uproar. Israel and its supporters have accused those who support boycotts of Israel or its settlements of antisemitism. Airbnb scrapped its plan to remove listings in the settlements in 2019 after lawsuits were filed against it in the United States and Israel.