FIFA has succumbed to Israeli pressure and removed discussions on the activities of “settlement teams” from the agenda of its conference which begins in the Bahraini capital Manama today.
According to Haaretz, “the FIFA council decided that it would be too early for the congress to make a decision on the issue at this stage.”
A senior official from Israel’s Foreign Ministry noted that despite the FIFA council’s decision, the Palestinians could still request during the Congress – today and tomorrow – that the member states vote to reject the position of the FIFA council and in favour of their proposal against the settlement teams, Haaretz reported.
A joint Israeli-Palestinian committee held a special meeting on the sidelines of the FIFA conference in Manama, in the presence of Palestinian Football Association head, Jibril Rajoub, and his Israeli counterpart Ofer Eini to discuss the issue of “settlement teams” without reaching any understandings.
The Palestinians demand punitive measures against six teams operating in the Israeli football league, representing settlements in the occupied West Bank, such as freezing their activities and excluding them from FIFA competitions.
Israel fears more international sanctions will be imposed on it, isolating it further internationally.
Haaretz reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had called FIFA President Gianni Infantino on Sunday and said:
The Palestinian conflict is long term and FIFA isn’t going to solve it.
“If the decision against the teams from the settlements passes, it will make sports a source of division, instead of a source of conflict resolution. It could ruin FIFA,” Netanyahu told Infantino.
Prior to the FIFA conference, Israel made a concerted effort to pressure the presidency of the International Football Federation and its members to thwart the vote to exclude settlement teams from participating in FIFA matches.
In the Israeli league there are six teams which are based in illegal settlements: Ma’aleh Adumim, Ariel, Kiryat Arba, Giv’at Ze’ev, Jordan Valley and Oranit.
In a report, Human Rights Watch said that the activity of the settlement teams in the Israeli league violates FIFA’s Constitution and contradicts its human rights obligations.