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Israel Fighting to Stop FIFA From Suspending Settlement Soccer Teams

Move against six teams initiated by Palestinians, backed by FIFA panel; Israelis pessimistic

Israel is increasingly concerned that when the FIFA Congress holds its annual meeting in another four weeks, the international soccer federation will decide to suspend six Israeli soccer teams based in West Bank settlements.
Consequently, ambassadors in dozens of capitals worldwide have been ordered to work with officials of their host countries to foil the move.
An official involved in the issue said that two weeks ago, Israel learned that Palestinian Football Association President Jibril Rajoub had asked to put the issue of the settlement teams on the agenda of both the FIFA Council, which will meet in Manama, Bahrain on May 9, and the FIFA Congress, which will meet in the same city on May 10 and 11.
On Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry sent a cable to dozens of Israeli embassies instructing embassy staffers to try to persuade their host countries to remove the issue from FIFA’s agenda or ensure that no vote on it takes place. But the official said Israel must be prepared for the worst-case scenario, in which a vote does take place. If so, Israel’s chances of winning are negligible.
“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 said. “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.”
The Palestinians have been trying since 2015 to pressure FIFA into taking action against Israel over the settlement teams. FIFA’s bylaws 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. The Palestinians want this clause used against the settlement teams and argue that if Israel doesn’t suspend them from its leagues, Israel itself should be suspended from FIFA.
The six teams in question are located in Ma’aleh Adumim, Ariel, Kiryat Arba, Givat Ze’ev, Oranit and the Jordan Valley. All play in low-level leagues.
In late March, a meeting took place in Zurich between Tokyo Sexwale, head of the committee that FIFA established to deal with the issue of the settlement teams, Israel Football Association chairman Ofer Eini and Rajoub. At this meeting, Sexwale, of South Africa, presented his committee’s draft report on the issue.
An Israeli official said the draft report was extremely harsh and even mentioned the possibility of suspending Israel from FIFA because of these teams. Eini was furious and demanded that the report be amended, the official said, and Sexwale agreed to do so. The amended version dropped any mention of suspending Israel, but still said the settlement teams’ inclusion in Israeli leagues violated FIFA’s bylaws.
Next week Sexwale is supposed to publish his final report, which is expected to exert decisive influence over whether or not the FIFA Congress votes on the issue of the settlement teams next month. Israel has been trying to soften the report’s language and remove any recommendations that would require FIFA to make a decision on the issue.
Earlier this week, Eini sent a letter to FIFA’s general secretary, Fatma Samoura, which said Israel expects FIFA to pressure the Palestinians to remove the issue of the settlement teams from FIFA’s agenda. If the Palestinians refuse, Eini added, FIFA’s president and council should use their own authority to remove it from the agenda.
“We want to prevent a vote by any means,” the Israeli official said. “The last two times, we did manage to prevent it, but now, I’m less optimistic.”

Barak Ravid

Haaretz Correspondent

read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.784442


Schermata 2017 04 20 alle 22.43.46

Video of the Week New Clashes Erupt Between Israeli Security Forces, Muslim Worshippers

Temple Mount temporarily closed to Jewish visitors after clashes with police

The Temple Mount was temporarily closed to Jewish visitors on Wednesday at the order of Jerusalem District Commander Yoram Halevy after Jews broke visitation rules at the holy site, police said. The Jewish visitors were expelled from the compound for bringing sacred books to the Mount and trying to pray there. After one of the individuals was cautioned, another took out a holy book, and the group was expelled. Meanwhile, renewed clashes erupted between protesters and Israeli security forces near the Lion's Gate in the Old City, where police used stun grenades against the demonstrators. A regular dynamic has developed involving clashes between Palestinians and Israel Police over the past several days near the Lion's Gate. Dozens of Palestinians are present at the site on a regular basis, urging devotion to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount and condemning Israel. During Muslim prayer times, particularly the midday and nighttime prayers, hundreds and sometimes even thousands have been gathering there.

There have been outbreaks of violence during these periods, including stone-throwing or physical confrontations with the police. In most of these incidents, the police have been using stun grenades and sponge-tipped bullets to disperse the crowds. In a number of cases, journalists in the area have also suffered violence at the hands of the police. On Tuesday, Hassan Shaalan, a reporter for the Ynet news website, was struck by a policeman even after he identified himself as a member of the press. A group of Jerusalem-based journalists released a statement of condemnation over the incident and called on the police to permit reporters to do their jobs. The Jerusalem Police responded: "This involved an incident that took place in the course of violent disturbances of the peace that occurred in Jerusalem while the police were acting to remove the demonstrators from the street after some of them refused to vacate. The forces working on the scene are under constant threat to their lives. http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.802141

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