Florida governor threatens Airbnb over West Bank settlements

Florida governor threatens Airbnb over West Bank settlements
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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisTo win over Midwesterners, Democrats should rethink school choice stance DeSantis wants statue of civil rights activist to replace Confederate figure on Capitol Hill Florida couple wins right to plant vegetables in front yard after years-long legal battle MORE (R) said he would prohibit state workers and contractors from using Airbnb facilities over the company’s decision to remove about 200 rental units located in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

DeSantis in a letter to the Florida Department of Management Services on Tuesday said that he believed Airbnb’s decision would “commercially discriminate against Israel,” a violation of state law. He ordered the department to refuse reimbursements to state employees who stay in Airbnb facilities during official travel.

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“We cannot allow taxpayer dollars to be spent supporting an organization with anti-Israeli policies,” DeSantis wrote.

Florida's State Board of Administration is finalizing a report that would decide whether Airbnb’s policies discriminate against Israel. The board is run by the state's governor, attorney general and chief financial officer, all Republicans.

Airbnb announced in November it would no longer list the homes for rent in the West Bank settlements. The company said at the time the settlements were “at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.”

“We know that people will disagree with this decision and appreciate their perspective,” Airbnb said in a statement. “This is a controversial issue. There are many strong views as it relates to lands that have been the subject of historic and intense disputes between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank.”

In an email Wednesday, an Airbnb spokesman said the company has “unequivocally” rejected the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, known as BDS, which seeks to punish Israel over its treatment of Palestinians.

“We have worked with the Florida State Board of Administration on this matter, [and] we remain committed to the more than 45,000 Airbnb hosts in Florida who share their homes with over 4.5 million visitors, and we’ll continue to do all we can to support our community,” the company said.

Airbnb still lists rental units in Jerusalem, including East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights, two more areas fraught with geopolitical tensions. The company has made other decisions to block rentals in contested areas, including in Russian-annexed Crimea.

DeSantis made the announcement during a visit to the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, his first stop in the area since he became governor last week. He also said he would make his first international trade mission to Israel after the legislature completes their work in May.