Israel has asked Google to reconsider its decision to list Palestine among its selection of localized search pages, accusing the company of implicitly recognizing a Palestinian state. In a letter to Google CEO Larry Page, deputy foreign minister Ze’ev Elkin said the search giant's move could undermine efforts for peace in the region.
The company's Google.ps search page had previously been labeled "Palestinian territories," but was changed to read "Palestine" on May 1st. Israel's foreign ministry had expressed concerns over the nomenclature, saying it "raises questions" about Google's intent. As the Jerusalem Post reports, Elkin has now adopted a more openly critical stance.
A threat to peace in the Middle East
"Such a decision is in my opinion not only mistaken but could also negatively impinge on the efforts of my government to bring about direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority," the minister wrote, adding that the move would embolden Palestinians to "further their political aims through one-sided actions rather than through negotiating and mutual agreement." Elkin asked Google to reconsider its decision, while urging Page to discuss the matter with Israeli representatives.
In an interview with the BBC last week, Google spokesperson Nathan Tyler said the company decided to change the listing after consulting "a number of sources and authorities."
"In this case, we are following the lead of the UN, ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) and other international organizations," Tyler said. The UN sent shockwaves across Israel late last year, when, by a vote of 138 to 9, it designated Palestine as a non-member observer state. Israel and the US were among those in opposition to the move, with an additional 41 countries abstaining from the vote altogether.
The Palestinian authority last week welcomed Google's name change, describing it as "a step in the right direction," but Elkin says the shift runs counter to the company's ethos of openness and communication.
"Google has brought about so many positive changes in the world by promoting connections between people and between peoples," he wrote. "This decision, however, is in contradiction to such aims, and distances the parties from real dialogue."