The FIFA football federation said it would not impose sanctions on Israel and its teams from the West Bank in its final ruling on repeated requests to do so by the Palestinian Authority.
“The FIFA Council has decided to refrain from imposing any sanctions or other measures on either the Israel Football Association or the Palestinian Football Association, as well as from requesting any other FIFA body to do so,” the organisation wrote in a statement Friday, which referenced Israel’s threat to pursue countermeasures against the Palestinians.
“The matter is declared closed and will not be the subject of any further discussion until the legal and/or de facto framework has changed,” the statement also read.
The decision was based on a report submitted by the FIFA Monitoring Committee Israel-Palestine chaired by Tokyo Sexwale and “after a thorough legal consultation process,” the Switzerland-based world football body said.
The current situation is, “for reasons that have nothing to do with football, characterised by an exceptional complexity and sensitivity” and “can neither be ignored nor changed unilaterally by non-governmental organisations such as FIFA.” In line with the general principle established in FIFA Statutes, it “must remain neutral with regard to political matters,” the statement also read.
Notwithstanding, “the FIFA administration will continue to facilitate the movement of players, officials and football equipment in, out of, and within Palestine — the aspect on which the FIFA Monitoring Committee Israel-Palestine has covered the most ground and achieved a positive response,” the statement also read.
Israel’s six West Bank teams, which play in lower level leagues, are located in Maale Adumim, Ariel, Kiryat Arba, Givat Zeev, Oranit and the Jordan Valley. The Palestinians have asked for their exclusion from international matches and as affiliates of the Israeli association, which is a FIFA member. They also sought punitive actions against Israel for its detainment of a football player suspected of terrorist activity and refusal to allow some Palestinian players to travel.
The Palestinians have called for the removal from FIFA altogether of the Israeli league. They say having teams in the West Bank violates FIFA’s rules, which state that “Member associations and their clubs may not play on the territory of another member association without the latter’s approval.”
When Russia occupied Crimea in 2014, FIFA’s European affiliate, UEFA, blocked Russia from incorporating teams from Crimea in its national league on the basis of the same rule.
Simon Johnson, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, said: “I am delighted to welcome the decision of the FIFA council to show a red card to Palestinian attempts to throw Israel out of world football. This is the right outcome. I am grateful to all the right thinking members of the football family for helping to achieve this fair and just outcome.”