independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Google searches for Middle East peace with Palestine engine

In a simple change loaded with political significance, Google has changed the the subheadline on its Palestinian edition from "Palestinian Territories" to "Palestine."

The internet giant made the change on Wednesday.

The name and legal status given to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank is still a subject of bitter dispute, and peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians are stalled.

In November, Palestine won the status of "non-member observer state" at the UN. This followed an unsuccessful bid to join the body as a full member in 2011 because of a lack of support in the Security Council.

Israel considers any formal use of the word 'Palestine' as pre-judging the outcome of peace talks. In much of Israel's official terminology the West Bank is referred to as "Judea" and "Samaria".

Google spokesman Nathan Tyler told the BBC: "We're changing the name 'Palestinian Territories' to 'Palestine' across our products. We consult a number of sources and authorities when naming countries.

"In this case, we are following the lead of the UN, Icann [the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers], ISO [International Organisation for Standardisation] and other international organisations."

The Palestinian Authority welcomed Google's decision, with Dr Sabri Saidam, advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, saying: "This 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."

Dr Saidam said that since the UN vote on 29 November, the Palestinian Authority had written to international companies, including Google, asking them to replace their use of "Palestinian Territories" with "Palestine".

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