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Israel permitted to air soccer matches to settlements after UEFA withdraws demand

In this Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016 photo, a Jewish settler watches his son during a training session of the Beitar Shabi Givat Zeev soccer club, in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Givat Zeev, near Jerusalem, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016.
AP Photo/Ariel Schalit

European soccer association UEFA has reportedly withdrawn its demand that Israel’s public broadcasters Kan not air World Cup and Euro 2020 soccer games to Israelis living in east Jerusalem and West Bank settlements.

Kan last year bid €5 million ($5.8 million) for the rights to broadcast games in the early round of the two international soccer competitions, Yedioth Ahronoth reported earlier this month.

But its contract with UEFA had remained unsigned amid a dispute over a demand that the games only be aired inside the so-called Green Line -- which excludes east Jerusalem and Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Kan deemed the condition unacceptable and later informed UEFA that it would give up its bid.

On Tuesday, however, Yedioth reported that UEFA’s demand was withdrawn following talks with senior officials in the Israel Football Association and after almost a year of negotiations.

According to the report, UEFA revised its contract to permit the games transmitted to the West Bank on the condition that it also air the games in Arabic and use the broadcast of a Qatari company that bought the broadcast rights for Middle East and north Africa, which includes what the European soccer association defines as “the Palestinian territories.”

The Israel Football Association said it had been in contact with UEFA “from the moment the difficulty was brought to our attention.”

“We thank UEFA heads for their help in finding a solution which once again prevents any attempt to tie soccer with politics,” it added.

Israeli settlements are seen as illegal under international law and are considered major obstacles to peace as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.

The status of Jerusalem, meanwhile, is one of the thorniest issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While Israel considers the entire undivided city its capital, the Palestinians view east Jerusalem as the capital of their hoped-for state.


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