Soccer (illustration)
Soccer (illustration) Flash 90

FIFA on Tuesday delayed a decision on the issue of Israeli teams in Judea and Samaria, saying it was "premature" to take action, AFP reported.

The governing body of soccer’s statement came after a five-hour long FIFA Council meeting in Bahrain, ahead of the issue being scheduled for discussion by its annual Congress, which takes place in Manama on May 11.

"Following the report by chairman of the Monitoring Committee Israel-Palestine, Tokyo Sexwale, the FIFA Council considered that at this stage it is premature for the FIFA Congress to take any decision," read the statement, according to AFP.

It remains unclear whether the issue will remain on the Congress' agenda.

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 Palestinian Authority demands that FIFA’s bylaws, which bar any country from setting up teams in another country’s territory or letting such teams play in its own leagues without the other country’s consent, be applied to Israel.

The six teams in question are located in Ma’aleh Adumim, Ariel, Kiryat Arba, Givat Ze’ev, Oranit and the Jordan Valley.

The issue, which has become a long-running sore for FIFA, was further enflamed this week after reports that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu phoned FIFA president Gianni Infantino, apparently asking for the item to be taken off of this week's agenda.

A FIFA commission chaired by Sexwale presented several potential solutions in a report in March, but these were rejected by Rajoub.

Tuesday's decision to delay was immediately criticized.

"FIFA has today failed in what is a litmus test of its proclaimed commitment to human rights," said Martin Konecny of the Brussels-based think tank European Middle East Project, according to AFP.

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.

Join our official WhatsApp group