25 November 2016
In a statement to press earlier this month, Palestinian football chief Jibril Rajoub said he would file a claim at CAS unless FIFA agrees to relocate the teams when the world football body holds its council meeting next January.
“We will not give up. We will never accept any compromise,” he said.
The Palestinian FA says the location of the teams violates FIFA rules, which state that football clubs from FIFA member affiliates – such as the Israeli FA – may not play on the territory of other football associations without their permission.
Palestine considers the settlements to be built on its own territory, which is illegally occupied under international law. It argues that the clubs are playing there without the permission of the Palestinian FA, which has been recognised by FIFA since 1998.
FIFA has established a special monitoring committee – headed by South African anti-apartheid campaigner and former FIFA presidential candidate Tokyo Sexwale – to consider the complaints against the Israeli FA, but so far talks have proved unsuccessful.
This week Sexwale held meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the Israeli clubs based in the settlements, as well as the movement of footballers and football goods in and out of Palestinian territory.
Academic and journalist James Dorsey, the author of a blog entitled “The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer”, says the recent election of Donald Trump as US president is likely to give “reinforced impetus” to Palestinian plans to file at CAS.
“The indications are that Trump will reverse long-standing US policy that views the West Bank as occupied territory and the settlements as illegal. The question is then whether FIFA would issue a decision which is directly at odds with US policy”, he said.
Any filing at CAS would constitute a first testing of Palestine’s ability to fight its battle with Israel in international forums. The court’s handling of the issue could prove significant in light of Palestine’s accession to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in early 2015, which paves the way for war crimes prosecutions arising from its conflict with Israel.
It is not the first time the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has arisen in a sporting context. Earlier this year Scottish football club Glasgow Celtic was fined by the governing body of European football, UEFA, for displaying Palestinian flags in a Champions League qualifier against Israeli club Hapoel Be’er Sheva.