FIFA says it won't sanction Israel over settlement teams, irks Palestinians

The Palestinians had hoped FIFA would censure Israel over the settlement teams, thereby forcing them to either drop the clubs from the Israel Football Association or risk losing FIFA membership.

October 29, 2017 01:32
2 minute read.
jabril rabouj

President of the Palestinian FA Jibril Rajoub shows a red card as he speaks during the 65th FIFA Congress on May 29, 2015 in Zurich.. (photo credit: AFP/MICHAEL BUHOLZER)

Israel scored a rare win on Friday as the Palestinians lost their bid to oust six West Bank soccer clubs from the global body governing the sport, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association.

“FIFA’s decision is a great victory for our fight against the boycott,” Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan said after hearing the news.

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The Palestinians have failed in their attempt to use sports as a political weapon against Israel, said Erdan.

“We will continue to work to thwart the boycott initiatives of the Palestinians and the BDS organizations,” he added.

The Palestinians had hoped FIFA would censure Israel over the settlement teams, thereby forcing them to either drop the clubs from the Israel Football Association or risk losing FIFA membership.

Instead FIFA on Friday said it had no intention of taking action against the teams or of intervening in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Given that the final status of the West Bank territories is the concern of the competent international public law authorities, the FIFA Council agrees that FIFA, in line with the general principle established in its statutes, must remain neutral with regard to political matters,” the organization said.

“It was agreed that any interference by FIFA in the status quo of football in the relevant territories without the consent of the parties concerned might aggravate the situation of football not only in the territories in question, but also in the greater region affected – which would not be in the best interests of the game,” FIFA said.

“Therefore, the FIFA Council has decided to refrain from imposing any sanctions or other measures on either the Israel FA or the Palestinian FA, as well as from requesting any other FIFA body to do so. The matter is declared closed and will not be the subject of any further discussion until the legal and/or de facto framework has changed,” FIFA said.

FIFA said it would “continue to facilitate the movement of players, officials and football equipment in, out of, and within Palestine.”

The Palestinian Football Association had argued that the FIFA statutes which state that a member country’s teams cannot play matches on the territory of another association without permission.

The PFA has also complained that Israel hampers its activities, including limiting the movement of players between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and that it has barred some international travel.

Israel has cited security concerns for its actions and the IFA says it is not responsible for the actions of its government.

In 2015, the PFA proposed during a FIFA Congress that Israel be suspended from international soccer, but the PFA backed down after FIFA set up a task force led by South African politician Tokyo Sexwale.

Fadi Quran, a senior campaigner for the NGO Avaaz in Palestine, warned that FIFA could face legal action as a result of its decision.

“FIFA’s failure to act means thousands of Palestinian children are being robbed of the chance to play the game they love on the land that’s theirs. If FIFA won’t do its job and won’t respect its own statutes and international law, then the courts will force it to do so,” Quran said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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