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Israel isn’t happy about Google’s decision to recognize Palestine

On Thursday, I wrote about Google’s decision to change "Palestinian Territories" to "Palestine" on the Palestinian edition of its search engine — a move that at the very least acknowledges the quest for Palestinian statehood. Unsurprisingly, Israel is not happy about the change. "This change raises questions about the reasons behind this surprising involvement of ...

EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images
EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

On Thursday, I wrote about Google’s decision to change "Palestinian Territories" to "Palestine" on the Palestinian edition of its search engine — a move that at the very least acknowledges the quest for Palestinian statehood. Unsurprisingly, Israel is not happy about the change.

"This change raises questions about the reasons behind this surprising involvement of what is basically a private internet company in international politics — and on the controversial side," Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Agence France-Presse.

Google, meanwhile, is defending the decision as part of an effort to put the company in line with international standards. "We’re changing the name ‘Palestinian Territories’ to ‘Palestine’ across our products. We consult a number of sources and authorities when naming countries," Google spokesman Nathan Tyler told the BBC. "In this case, we are following the lead of the U.N., Icann [the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers], ISO [International Organisation for Standardisation] and other international organisations."

Google’s action comes on the heels of November’s overwhelming U.N. vote to grant Palestine non-member observer state status, a move bitterly opposed by the United States and Israel. Following the vote, Palestinian officials asked international companies, including Google, to refer to "Palestine" rather than the "Palestinian Territories." Google’s move "is a step in the right direction, a timely step and one that encourages others to join in and give the right definition and name for Palestine instead of Palestinian territories," Sabri Saidam, an advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told the BBC.

Given current prospects for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, I suppose the Palestinians will take whatever victories they can get.

Elias Groll is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @EliasGroll

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