FIFA Makes No Decision on Discussion of Israeli Settlement Team Ban

Palestinians have said that if the matter isn't brought up for discussion they would petition the Court of Arbitration for Sport, making a FIFA-brokered solution impossible.

Palestinian youths hold red cards and placards reading in Arabic: 'Israel out of FIFA,' during a demonstration against the Israeli Football Federation in Hebron, May 28, 2015.

The heads of FIFA, the international soccer federation came to no decision regarding the banning of Israeli teams from West Bank settlements, the head of the committee trying to resolve the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians said Friday, not even to discuss the issue at the organization's world congress slated for May 2017.

Tokyo Sexwale, who heads the committee that was appointed to advise FIFA on the matter, announced FIFA's failure to reach a decision after Palestinians demanded that six Israeli teams from Israeli West Bank settlements be barred from participating in international tournaments.

The fact that the governing body didn't make a decision does not mean that a discussion on the matter will not take place at FIFA's 2017 congress; the issue may be brought up for discussion again in the future, once Sexwale's committee finishes its activities.

The head of the Palestinian Football Association has threatened that if FIFA doesn’t decide to suspend the Israeli teams, he’ll petition the Court of Arbitration for Sport for a ruling on the issue.

FIFA’s president has been trying to broker a solution to the issue through agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. But such a petition would make this effort impossible.

FIFA's Tokyo Sexwale and Gianni Infantino in Zurich, Switzerland, October 14, 2016.
Arnd Wiegmann, Reuters.

Jibril Rajoub, who heads the Palestinian association, told a press conference on Thursday that allowing the settlement teams to play is a gross violation of both FIFA’s bylaws and those of the Union of European Football Associations, of which Israel is a member.

“Israel receives quite a few benefits from FIFA, and some of those benefits also reach the settlements teams, which is unacceptable,” Rajoub said. “Our message to FIFA is clear. The time has come to decide this issue and bring an end to Palestinian suffering, and thereby grant freedom of action to Palestinian sport and football, on one hand, and stop giving legitimacy to clubs active in the settlements, on the other.”

FIFA’s bylaws state that one country can’t allow a team located on the territory of another country to play in its league unless the other country agrees. The Palestinians say the six settlement teams violate this rule. The teams in question are in Ma’aleh Adumim, Ariel, Kiryat Arba, Givat Ze’ev, the Jordan Valley and Oranit.