Israel’s deputy foreign minister launched an angry broadside against the search engine giant Google earlier today accusing the company of jeopardising progress in the moribund peace process after it designated a ‘Palestine’ homepage last week.
Speaking to Israel’s Army Radio, Zeev Elkin attacked the company’s decision to change the homepage labelling from ‘Palestinian Territories’ to ‘Palestine’. The move followed the Palestinian’s successful campaign for statehood at the United Nations last year.
“I think that the Google decision from the last few days is very, very problematic,” Mr Elkin said. “When a company like Google comes along and supports this line, it actually pushes peace further away, pushes away negotiations, and creates among the Palestinian leadership the illusion that in this manner they can achieve the result. Without direct negotiation with us, nothing will happen.”
There have been no direct talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians for nearly four years. Two months ago, US president Barack Obama launched a new initiative following a visit to the region, but so far there is little sign of any tangible progress. The US Secretary of State, John Kerry has held several meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials since the Obama visit.
Last week, a statement from the company said the change was Google’s way of, “following the lead of the UN ... and other international organisations.”
Palestinian officials were delighted at the change by the company and have now invited staff to map the West Bank for the Google Maps application. Presently, electronic mapping of the Occupied Territories is extremely poor, with little detail offered for several major Palestinian cities.
Sabri Saidam, an advisor to Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, said that Google’s move made Israel fearful that its, “concept of Judea and Samaria” – the names Israel uses for the West Bank – would be threatened.