Internet giant Google has changed the tagline on the homepage of its Palestinian edition from “Palestinian Territories” to “Palestine”.
The change, introduced on 1 May, means google.ps now displays “Palestine” in Arabic and English under Google’s logo.
Using the word Palestine is controversial for some. Israeli policy is that the borders of a Palestinian state are yet to be agreed.
In November, the UN gave Palestine the status of “non-member observer state”.
The decision by the General Assembly was strongly opposed by Israel and the United States. Previously, Palestine only had “observer entity” status.
It followed an unsuccessful Palestinian bid to join the international body as a full member state in 2011 because of a lack of support in the UN Security Council.
Palestinians in general seek recognition for the state they are trying to establish and the adoption of the name Palestine.
Israel considers any formal use of the word Palestine as pre-judging the outcome of currently stalled peace talks. In much of Israel’s official terminology the West Bank is referred to as Judea and Samaria.
In a statement given to the BBC on Friday, Google spokesman Nathan Tyler said: “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 (PA) welcomed Google’s decision.
Britain and the US have warned that Israel’s plans to build new housing settlements in the West Bank would damage the prospect of creating a two-state solution to its conflict with the Palestinians.
British foreign secretary, William Hague expressed “extreme concern” at the plan to create 3,000 new homes in the key strategic area of Palestinian territory would seriously undermine the Middle East peace process, and corrode Israel’s international reputation.
The Israeli announcement on Friday came a day after the UN recognised Palestine as a non-member observer state. Palestinians say that the proposed development would break the West Bank in two, thereby preventing any hope of a contiguous Palestinian state.
“I am extremely concerned by reports that the Israeli cabinet plans to approve the building of 3,000 new housing units in illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem,” Hague said. “Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and undermine trust between the parties. If implemented, these plans would alter the situation on the ground on a scale that makes the two-state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, increasingly difficult to achieve.
Spain has followed France in announcing it will support a Palestinian bid for enhanced status at the United Nations when the issue goes to a vote of the General Assembly.
Within hours, however, Britain indicated on Wednesday that it would abstain unless the Palestinians met its conditions for a “yes” vote.
After the announcements from Paris and Madrid, the Palestinians could have been forgiven for spotting an emerging consensus among the Europeans in favor of its bid on Thursday to achieve recognition as a non-member observer state.
But Britain’s likely abstention served to underline the continuing divisions within Europe, some tactical and others fundamental, over how to advance the Mideast peace process. European governments remain almost equally divided over how to address the issue of upgrading Palestine’s status. The United States has made it clear it will veto the proposal.