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Palestinians say FIFA cowed by Israel over dispute

Al-Ram (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) – The Palestinian football chief on Sunday accused FIFA’s leadership of bowing to Israeli pressure to stay out of a dispute between Israel and the Palestinians over play in the occupied West Bank.

The world body’s ruling council declined on Friday to adopt any of three possible actions recommended by an international commission which spent more than two years looking at the long-running battle.

The Palestinian Football Association had demanded FIFA sanctions against six teams playing in the Israeli league which are based in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino called the dispute “exceptionally complex” because of the political situation in the Middle East.

Palestinian FA boss Jibril Rajoub on Sunday said that Infantino had caved under pressure from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“The FIFA chief tried to evade and stall,” Rajoub told reporters at FA headquarters in Al-Ram, between Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramallah.

“He received threats from Netanyahu…”

Rajoub did not offer evidence to support his allegations.

He did promise to submit documents to accompany the Palestinian FA’s pending complaint to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which is expected to give a ruling in January.

The Palestinian association says Israel is in breach of FIFA statutes which state that a member country’s teams cannot play matches on the territory of another association without permission.

Israel said FIFA should stay out of it as there are no recognised frontiers for a Palestinian state.

“This is a clear violation, that they would organise an official league on land that is not Israeli land,” Rajoub said. “Even the Israeli league does not dare say this is their land.”

“Those who politicise sport are working according to a fascist government’s programme, a typical Nazi government.”

Israel’s Minister of Interior Security Gilad Erdan on Friday labelled Rajoub an “instigator of terrorism” who was seeking to use sport as “a political weapon” against the Jewish state.

The CAS could force FIFA to hold a vote at its next congress on the Palestinian demands.

Infantino said that FIFA would follow any CAS decision.

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