TEL AVIV – Airbnb could find itself sanctioned with a special tax due to its decision to remove all of its 200 listings located in Israeli settlements, Israel’s Tourism Minister said Tuesday.
Yariv Levin’s ministry has asked the Finance Ministry to “impose a special and high tax” on Airbnb’s operations in Israel, a statement from his office said.
The tax would not affect the renters themselves and would not be levied against all apartments, the statement said, but it had the aim of limiting “the company’s activity across the country.”
Levin called on Airbnb to withdraw its “discriminatory” decision to delist Jewish properties in the West Bank.
Airbnb on Monday said the company “concluded that we should remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians,” sparking outrage across Israel.
Many Israelis are angered by the fact that the Jewish state has been singled out by Airbnb, which advertises listings in at least ten disputed territories around the world, including the Moroccan Sahara, Tibet, Crimea and Turkish-occupied Cyprus.
According to Cabinet Minister Michael Oren, Airbnb’s decision constitutes “the very definition of anti-Semitism.”
The vacation rental giant’s move came in the wake of a fierce campaign waged against it by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
Airbnb’s announcement came a day before the heavily George Soros-financed Human Rights Watch was due to publish a report outlining the company’s operations in Israeli settlements.
In his statement Tuesday, Levin said his ministry would begin unrolling an initiative aimed at encouraging tourism and accommodation in Israeli settlements.
The Strategic Affairs Ministry, which is tasked with penalizing BDS activists, is expected to appeal to the U.S. to lobby on Israel’s behalf since 25 U.S. states ban business dealings with companies that boycott Israel, Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan told Army Radio Tuesday.