FIFA postpones decision on 'settlement clubs'

World soccer’s governing body puts off a decision on Israeli clubs based in Judea and Samaria.

Elad Benari, Canada ,

Soccer (illustration)
Soccer (illustration)
Flash 90

FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, on Friday put off a decision on Israeli clubs based in communities in Judea and Samaria, AFP reports.

The Palestine Football Association (PFA) has been pushing FIFA to expel the six clubs in Judea and Samaria or relocate them within Israel's recognized borders.

The issue had been on the agenda at a meeting of the FIFA Council, with the organization’s president Gianni Infantino describing sporting tensions in the region as one of his "top priorities".

But FIFA's envoy to the region, South African powerbroker Tokyo Sexwale, said he was unable to deliver a final report to the council because his committee "was not able to meet".

He said the full report should be ready next month, according to AFP.

Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) welcomed the postponement, writing on his Facebook page that "we were successful in blocking another Palestinian attempt to ban Israeli football teams from FIFA."

In a posting from Thursday, Erdan called on FIFA and "all supporters of the ban to leave politics out of soccer!"

The PFA call is one of several anti-Israel initiatives at FIFA. A group of 66 members of the European Parliament recently signed a letter calling on Infantino to act to prevent Israeli clubs based in Judea and Samaria from participating in officially sanctioned play.

Subsequently, Human Rights Watch called on FIFA to quit sponsoring Israeli matches in Judea and Samaria, claiming they are being held on “stolen land”.

Human Rights Watch on Friday called on Infantino to set forth "a timeline for deciding whether FIFA will stop sponsoring matches on land that has been illegally seized from Palestinians."

Infantino, who took charge of FIFA in February, told reporters he would visit the region "when (his presence) would have an impact and when there has been progress".

Wilfried Lemke, the special advisor to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on sport and peace, wrote to FIFA last week voicing support for the Palestinian Arab case.

Last year PFA chief Jibril Rajoub campaigned to have Israel suspended from FIFA because, he claimed, Israel was restricting the movement of Palestinian Arab players.

However, he withdrew the bid at the 11th hour, sparking anger among Palestinian Arabs, some of whom demanded Rajoub’s resignation.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)