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Israel campaigns to prevent FIFA suspension of West Bank settlement soccer teams

The Jewish settlement of Shvut Rachel, near the Palestinian village of Khirbet Sarra is seen in the West Bank between Ramallah and Nablus
THOMAS COEX (AFP/File)
The move comes amid concerns that Israel could be suspended from FIFA

The Israeli government is increasingly worried that soccer teams based in settlements in the West Bank will face suspension from the international federation governing the sport, the Haaretz daily reported on Thursday.

With the FIFA Congress due to meet in May, 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.

Haaretz reports that 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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