Let FIFA bring peace
The powerful and impartial world soccer association might be just the right body to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Too bad its president balked
It’s a pity FIFA backtracked on its intent to vote on the suspension of Israel for violating a clause in the constitution of the world soccer association. The succumbing of FIFA president Gianni Infantino to pressure exerted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a half-hour phone conversation last Friday, as reported by Netanyahu’s bureau, was both cowardly and embarrassing.
Israel is violating a clear-cut clause, which is simple and logical. Article 72.2 in FIFA’s statutes prohibits a member state from establishing a soccer team in the territory of another state which is a FIFA member. It cannot include such a team in its soccer leagues without the consent of the other state. The lower Israeli leagues have six teams from settlements in the West Bank. The West Bank is not recognized as part of Israel, not even by Israel itself. However, Palestine has been a FIFA member since 1998.
According to some reports, Netanyahu told Infantino that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been around for a long time and that FIFA would not be the one to resolve it. But, actually, why not? Or at least, why can’t it try to? If Netanyahu and his predecessors haven’t managed to do so in all their attempts over the years – Netanyahu still claims that he’s trying — why can’t someone else be given the chance to try something different?
FIFA is an international organization with immense power. Its power stems from soccer’s great popularity, which is translated into big moneyand widespread influence. Understandably, an organization such as FIFA can get mired in internal power struggles and corruption, which has set in over the years. But in the Israeli-Palestinian context the advantage of FIFA is that it is impartial with regard to inter-state politics. Israel cannot accuse it of political bias or anti-Semitism. This is an organization that deals with soccer tournaments.