Israel lobbies FIFA on Judea and Samaria clubs

Israel launching diplomatic offensive against PA calls to ban soccer teams based in Judea and Samaria.

Ben Ariel ,

Soccer (illustration)
Soccer (illustration)

Israel is launching a diplomatic offensive against calls by Palestinian Arab officials for FIFA to impose sanctions over soccer teams based in Judea and Samaria, an official said on Thursday, according to AFP.

Palestinian soccer chief Jibril Rajoub, along with groups such as Human Rights Watch, has led efforts to have Israel suspended from FIFA or for the world body to quit sponsoring Israeli matches in Judea and Samaria, claiming they are being held on “stolen land”.

The world soccer governing body meets for its congress in Bahrain from May 10 to 11 and could decide what action to take over the six clubs based in Judea and Samaria that play in the Israeli league.

"Dozens of Israeli ambassadors have received instructions to engage in dialogue with FIFA delegates in the countries where they are posted to counter the unacceptable attempt by the Palestinians to politicize sport," the Israeli official told AFP on condition of anonymity on Thursday.

The official said they would seek to have the issue removed from the May meeting's agenda.

Rajoub earlier this month renewed his calls for FIFA to exclude Israel from international competition until clubs playing in “the occupied territories” are barred.

He expressed disappointment with the options being put to FIFA members to resolve the issue.

Those were agreed last month by a special committee chaired by South African sports official Tokyo Sexwale.

Rajoub had previously 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.

Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev has criticized the Palestinian Authority for politicizing soccer.