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FIFA withdraws resolution against Israeli settlement teams

Palestinians had urged FIFA to suspend the Israeli Football Association for including teams based in illegal settlements
A professional soccer match in the illegal West Bank settlement of Maale Adumin on 23 September 2016 (AFP)

World football governing body FIFA on Tuesday removed a resolution against Israeli clubs based in settlements in the illegally occupied West Bank.

FIFA guidelines ban national associations from registering teams on other associations’ territories.

In a letter addressed to members of the FIFA Council, more than 170 Palestinian football clubs and sports leagues had urged the world body to suspend the Israeli Football Association because it includes teams based in illegal settlements.

Netanyahu warned the FIFA president in a phone call on Sunday that the Palestinian resolution could 'ruin FIFA'

Suspension would ban Israel's clubs and national team from participating in professional international tournaments.

Israel is a member of UEFA, the European football confederation, and its clubs play in the Champions League and the Europa League.

The FIFA Council made the decision to remove the resolution from the FIFA Congress’s agenda in a meeting in Manama on Tuesday. 

“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,” the council said in a statement.

Israel occupied the West Bank in the 1967 war and continues to build settlements on the land Palestinians want to be a part of their future state. In December 2016, the UN Security Council denounced Israeli settlement-building.

“Member associations and their clubs may not play on the territory of another member association without the latter’s approval,” FIFA laws read.

Israel has six teams from West Bank settlements that play in the country’s lower leagues.

Palestinians have proposed a resolution against Israeli teams in the West Bank, arguing that the territory belongs to Palestinians and citing international law that deems the West Bank illegally occupied.

Israel presented an alternative solution to FIFA president Gianni Infantino on Monday, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Israel’s proposal would provide a “practical solution” to the problem without changing the status quo of the game in West Bank settlements, Haaretz cited an Israeli official as saying.

Human Rights Watch had urged FIFA to take action against settlement clubs.

"Any lingering doubt about whether FIFA should continue to sponsor matches in Israeli settlements in the West Bank should have been erased last month when the United Nations Security Council voted to reaffirm the unlawfulness of settlements, established on occupied Palestinian land," Sari Bashi, the rights group's Israel/Palestine advocacy director, said in January, referring to the December 2015 UN resolution. 

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, warned Infantino in a phone call on Sunday that the Palestinian resolution could "ruin FIFA," Haaretz reported.

"The Palestinian conflict is long term and FIFA isn't going to solve it," Netanyahu told the FIFA president, according to the Israeli newspaper.

The Palestinian football association can still ask FIFA to reintroduce the resolution against settlements during the international association's congress meeting on Wednesday and Thursday.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.