Netanyahu calls FIFA chief over possible West Bank settlement team ban
Associated Press/Ariel Schalit
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the president of FIFA, Gianni Infantino, to ask him to stop a motion at the organization's upcoming congress, calling for sanctions against Israeli teams from West Bank settlements, Haaretz reports.
According to the newspaper, Netanyahu has asked the leaders of several countries to pressure their soccer chiefs to remove the issue from the agenda of the conference, due to open in Bahrain on Wednesday.
One anonymous senior official told Haaretz that the Israeli Prime Minister's Office even requested that the United States pressure Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on his recent visit to Washington, in the hope that he might demand that the head of the Palestinian Football Association, Jibril Rajoub, cancels his attempts to put forward the motion at the congress.
It was reported in April that the FIFA committee charged with examining the Israeli-Palestinian issue had recommended that the international body give Israel a period of six months to discontinue matches in West Bank settlements before making a decision about a possible Israeli suspension from the soccer organization.
A draft of the proposal, seen by Haaretz, reportedly recommends that if Israeli teams continue to play in the West Bank, FIFA should take a decision about whether the teams or the country should be suspended.
The paper also reported that Israel sent a cable to dozens of ambassadors on Tuesday, instructing them to liaise with officials from their host countries as part of an effort to stave off any potential move.
An official told Haaretz that the efforts began after Israel learned that the Palestinian Football Association had sent a request that the question of the eligibility of teams based in settlements be placed on the agenda for both the FIFA Council and the FIFA Congress.
The Israeli response was to send a cable to the selected group of Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials posted abroad.
“Our growing assessment is that the FIFA Congress is liable to make a decision on suspending six Israeli teams that play over the Green Line, or even on suspending Israel from FIFA,” the cable explained, according to Haaretz. “We urge you to contact your countries’ representatives on the FIFA Council as soon as possible to obtain their support for Israel’s position, which rejects mixing politics with sport and calls for reaching an agreed solution between the parties ... and to thwart an anti-Israel decision if it is brought before the council.”
In October 2016, The Palestine Football Association called on FIFA to either expel the six clubs in settlements, or relocate them to within Israel’s internationally recognized borders. However the world's football governing body postponed making a decision on the issue.
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