There will be no deal to legitimize six Israel settlement-based soccer clubs, Jibril Rajoub, the chairman of the Palestine Football Association (PFA), said on Thursday.
In a wide-ranging interview in his Ramallah office, Rajoub spoke about the six settlement clubs, the international peace conference in Paris, and internal Palestinian reconciliation.
“Settlement clubs are totally against the statutes of FIFA, human rights, and a clear-cut violation of UN Security Council resolutions – there will be no compromise on this issue,” said Rajoub, who returned from a FIFA awards ceremony in Zurich on Wednesday.
The PFA has long maintained that the settlement clubs, which are part of the Israel Football Association (IFA), are in violation of FIFA bylaws because they are located in what the international community considers occupied territory. Meanwhile, the IFA holds that FIFA should not decide on the issue, because it is beyond its purview to determine Israel’s borders.
Rajoub said that Israel has a choice either to move its six teams into its internationally recognized borders or face consequences.
“The Israeli federation can make a unilateral decision and relocate the six clubs, avoiding sanctions, or it can choose to continue its crazy position and go head-to-head with FIFA,” Rajoub stated. “I don’t want to cause suffering to the Israeli players, but the Israeli players should look to see what is happening to a neighboring federation.”
Rajoub’s comments come days after a meeting of the FIFA Council on Monday and Tuesday. At the conclusion of the meeting, Gianni Infantino, the president of the international soccer organization, said that “no decision was made” on the fate of the six settlement clubs, and that the council is awaiting a report from Tokyo Sexwale, the chairman of the FIFA Monitoring Committee Israel-Palestine.
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The FIFA Monitoring Committee was created in 2015 to look into a number of issues affecting Palestinian soccer, including that of the settlement clubs.
Rajoub vowed to continue to appeal the legitimacy of the six settlement teams at FIFA, but also turn to the Court for Arbitration of Sport, an international sports court.
“We will continue within the legal system at FIFA and go to the FIFA Congress. We will not give up,” Rajoub stated, adding that the PFA also plans to approach the Court for Arbitration of Sport.
Rajoub first said in November that the PFA would turn to the court if FIFA does not handle the issue of the settlement clubs. The PFA has yet to raise the case at the international sports court.
On the issue of today’s international peace conference in Paris, Rajoub said that the goal is to set terms for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and resume negotiations based on them.
“The mission of the Paris conference is to fix the parameters and call on the parties to return to negotiations – this conflict will never be resolved through war, religion, or ideology. We have to settle sooner or later, but the question is will we be negotiating for the sake of negotiating or negotiating for the sake of settling the conflict,” Rajoub stated.
Israel, for its part, has rejected the conference as “rigged,” and called for bilateral peace talks without preconditions.
Rajoub said the Palestinian leadership would even be willing to restart negotiations tomorrow, if Israel demonstrates that is ready to hold “serious talks” based on international legitimacy.
“If Mr. Netanyahu recognized the Palestinian people and its right to self-determination according to the Security Council resolutions, tomorrow we can go and talk substance,” Rajoub stated, adding that, “Any rational Israeli has three concerns, security, official recognition, and normalization, all of which can be achieved through the emergence of an independent, sovereign Palestinian state.”
Regarding a possible Hamas-Fatah reconciliation, Rajoub said that Fatah maintains that reconciliation should be based on four redline principles. “Approve the two-state solution, approve the nonviolent resistance, approve building a democratic society with law and order with one gun, one police, and one law, and approve the sharing of power, which should come through elections,” Rajoub said, referring to what he should be the principles of a reconciliation agreement.
Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, officially opposes the two-state solution and strongly supports armed resistance. Rajoub, however, believes that there are strong elements in Hamas that accept his four principles.
“We believe the mainstream in Hamas holds a pragmatic position, which includes the creation of a Palestinian state on 1967 borders,” Rajoub stated, adding that he “is optimistic that an agreement is possible.”
Rajoub said that Hamas ultimately will have to realize it has to work with the international community and thereby accept two states and non-violence.
“We are not playing games with the international community or anyone. They have to accept and understand that and realize that is the only way to deal with the international community,” he stated.
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