FIFA Congress accepts decision to delay vote on West Bank soccer teams

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The FIFA Congress will not hold a vote this year on a Palestinian proposal questioning the status of Israeli teams in the West Bank.

Nearly three-quarters of FIFA member nations voted Thursday to accept the decision made two days earlier by the FIFA Council to delay a vote on the submission. The council said  it would be “premature” to make a decision on the status of Israeli teams that play in the West Bank. Votes on similar resolutions have been delayed for the past three years.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said the FIFA Council will make a decision on the issue by March 2018.

Senior Israeli and American officials reportedly had been pressuring Infantino over the weekend to delay a vote on the issue of West Bank teams. Palestinian Football Association President Jabril Rajoub told FIFA’s Congress that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Infantino to ask him to delay the vote.

The FIFA Congress began its annual two-day meeting on Wednesday in Manama, Bahrain.

The 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 called for sanctions against the Israeli league and its removal from FIFA altogether. 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.

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