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Match not over as West Bank football claim moves to court

Palestinian FA calls for Israel's expulsion if teams continue to play in Israeli leagues

    A player for Aroni Ariel, a West Bank football club that plays in the Israeli league
    A player for Aroni Ariel, a West Bank football club that plays in the Israeli league Getty Images

    When world football’s governing body refused to discuss Palestinian demands to ban Israel over Jewish West Bank teams in its leagues, many saw it a triumph.

    The Palestinian side had said the five teams represented areas that were not part of Israel and should be expelled from Israeli professional leagues.

    But the match is far from won for Israel as play now moves to the Court for Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The Palestinians claim Fifa's argument that "it must remain neutral regarding political matters".

    Fifa refused to discuss the matter, saying “must remain neutral with regard to political matters”, but the Palestinians claim this contravenes Fifa regulations.

    CAS should instruct Fifa to allow a vote on the matter at the Fifa Congress next June in Moscow, the Palestinian FA has said.

    “Fifa has clearly violated its own regulations,” Palestinian FA president Jibril Rajoub has said.

    “The Israelis are organizing league matches on land that is not Israeli land. Even the Israeli league would not dare say that this is their land. Fifa is making decisions as if it were a fascist or Nazi government."

    The Israel FA has declined to comment on the CAS hearing, saying that while it is the subject of the court case, the petition only involves the Palestinian FA and Fifa.

    Fifa President Gianni Infantino said he would abide by any CAS ruling.

    The Palestinians have been trying for many years to get the Fifa Congress to kick Israel out of international football as part of the diplomatic drive to isolate the country.

    They had little success with the claim that Israel was impeding the passage of players between Gaza and the West Bank.

    But recently they have adopted a more formidable two-stage tactic: pressuring Fifa to order the Israel FA to expel the five West Bank teams, and then suspend Israel itself if it does not comply.

    This approach was boosted by Fifa's decision not to let Russian teams in the Crimea, seized from Ukraine, play in Russian leagues.

    The CAS will hear the case in January.

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