Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a Thursday vote by FIFA to shelve a Palestinian proposal aimed at sanctioning Israel "another victory today in the battle for Israel's international standing."
Netanyahu had called FIFA President Gianni Infantino in the lead-up to the international soccer body's meeting to urge him to take action against the proposal from the Palestinian Football Association, which sought sanctions against Israel for having soccer clubs based in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
FIFA's congress voted 138-50 in favor of Infantino's recommendation to not consider the Palestinian proposal until next year—a solution that Netanyahu and the Israel Football Association see as a victory.
"We won another victory today in the battle for Israel's international standing," Netanyahu said. "We foiled an attempt to hurt Israel standing in FIFA."
Ofer Eini, chairman of the Israel FA, was critical in a speech at the meeting of the Palestinian attempt to use FIFA to settle a political dispute.
"The sole purpose is to establish the political boundaries," Eini said. "This is outside the authority of FIFA to establish borders."
"I don't have enough words to thank [FIFA] for firmly standing by our side and about the decision to vote for removing the Palestinian proposal from the agenda," he said. "We succeeded once again in making it clear that mixing politics and sports is liable to be disastrous, and therefore FIFA should avoid it."
FIFA rules restrict clubs from playing on the territory of another member association. There are currently six low-level club teams based in West Bank settlements, which the Palestinian FA wants to disband.
The fifty votes against Infantino's proposal to table the vote on the Israeli clubs came exclusively from the Arab and Muslim world, according to a Haaretz report.
Eini argued that sports should be used as a way to bridge the gap between the sides, not as a venue to wage political fights. He even proposed a "match for peace" between the teams.
"Let's use football as a bridge to bring people together," Eini said. "Let's hold a football match between Palestinians and Israelis, that will be called the match for peace. All revenues will go to build a football school for Palestinians and Israelis."
The representative for the Palestinian FA rejected Eini's call.
"As occupier and occupied I do not think that we can meet," said Palestinian FA president Jibril Rajoub.
After the vote, Infantino expressed hope that "President Trump can find a solution" to the dispute.
Published under: Israel