The area, captured by Israel in a 1967 war, has long been the subject of disputes between Israeli and Palestinians, who see Israeli settlements there as obstacles to their goal of establishing a state. Many other countries too deem Israeli settlements there as illegal and Palestinian officials, anti-settlement advocates and human rights groups have long advocated for Airbnb to remove such listings.
The move, announced a day before Human Rights Watch is due to release a report on how tourist rental businesses in the settlements such as Airbnb were harmful to human rights, is welcomed by Palestinians and the watchdog itself. Palestinian diplomat Saeb Erekat called it an "initial positive step" while HRW's executive director of its Middle East and North Africa unit Sarah Leah Whitson said it's the "right outcome."
Israelis are not pleased, however. Having observed that the move hasn't been applied to listings in other disputed areas, former Israeli ambassador Michael Oren called it the "very definition of anti-Semitism" and asked for a boycott of Airbnb's services. Tourism minister Yariv Levin decried the move as "the most wretched of wretched capitulations to the boycott efforts" while strategic affairs minister Gilad Erdan called on affected hosts to take Airbnb to court in accordance with Israel's anti-boycott law.
In its statement, Airbnb said it recognised the "conflicting views" as to whether companies should have business dealings in the occupied territories but it came to this decision after spending "considerable time speaking to various experts."
"Our hope is that someday… 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 company said in its statement.
Airbnb will also apply the evaluation framework under which West Bank settlements have been delisted to other occupied territories, such as the Western Sahara, according to a tweet by Reuters journalist Dan Williams citing an unnamed source.
Airbnb didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
First published Nov. 19 at 10:48 p.m. PT.
Update, Nov. 20 at 5:02 p.m. PT: Adds Reuters tweet.