Fifa declines to rule on Israel West Bank football clubs

Governing body says it 'must remain neutral' after Palestinian complaints over settlement clubs playing in Israeli leagues


Palestinian Football Association appeared to blame “Holocaust guilt” for Fifa's decision not to sanction Israeli football clubs based in the West Bank.

The international football association announced on Friday that it “must remain neutral with regard to political matters”, rejecting all three proposals made by a two year commission into football in the region.

Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Minister for Strategic Affairs, described the decision as “a great victory for our fight against the boycott.

“We will continue to work to thwart the boycott initiatives of the Palestinians and BDS organisations.”

Meanwhile, Palestinian Football Association president Djibril Rajoub said that “he who tried to defend Israel was Uefa” – the union of European football associations.

He then went on to suggest that European countries had made their decision due to guilt over the Holocaust, saying: “I don’t think Palestinian players should be scapegoats from what some European countries did against the Jews last century.”

The Palestinians had accused Israel of breaching Fifa rules stating that teams of a member country cannot play matches on the territory of another football association without permission. Six Israeli teams are based in the West Bank.

The application requested the Israeli teams - or Israel's entire Fifa membership - be dropped. It also said Palestinian football players were prevented by Israeli forces from travelling to play games.

But a Fifa commission said it would not issue any sanctions or further rulings until there were changes to the political situation on the ground.

A statement released by Fifa  said “that the current situation is, for reasons that have nothing to do with football, characterised by an exceptional complexity and sensitivity and by certain de facto circumstances that can neither be ignored nor changed unilaterally by non-governmental organisations such as FIFA.

“Furthermore, 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.”

The Palestinian Football Association has now taken the matter to the Court for Arbitration for Sport, which is expected to deliver a verdict in January.

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