Airbnb executive tours West Bank but sticks by company’s decision to exclude settlement listings

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Airbnb executive visited the West Bank and met with Jewish settlement leaders amid criticism of its decision to remove Jewish-owned properties in the disputed territories from its short-term rental listings.

Chris Lehane, head of global policy and public affairs for the company, met Tuesday with senior settlement leaders and toured the Barkan Industrial Park.

The visit, said Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan, was “an important step against BDS,” the boycott movement targeting Israel.

Airbnb had come under fire in pro-Israel circles after deciding to delist homes in Jewish settlements last month because, it said, the settlements are “at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.” Following a meeting between Airbnb executives and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, the Israelis issued a statement claiming that Airbnb had backed down from its policy of not listing apartments in settlements, only to be contradicted by the company, which stated that while it opposed the BDS movement against Israel, it was not backing down.

“Airbnb communicated that we are developing the tools needed to implement our policy, and that process includes continuing our dialogue with the Government of Israel and other stakeholders,” the company said in a statement reported by The Jerusalem Post.