Palestinian Soccer Diplomacy Isn’t Just a Game

When FIFA—the international governing body for soccer—held its annual congress in Bahrain last week, the Palestinian Authority hoped it would discuss whether six West Bank-based Israeli teams are in violation of the organization’s rules for playing on “Palestinian” territory without permission from the Palestinian Football League (PFA). The item was removed from the congress’s agenda at the last minute, but Simon Smith argues that the issue is bound to resurface, and more than sports is at stake:

The . . . PFA will no doubt push FIFA to make a decision [about the status of the West Bank leagues] in the future. The problem for FIFA is that whatever it decides will have huge ramifications. . . . A ruling in favor of the PFA would represent a significant international body defining the territory of a Palestinian state, which no doubt is the intention of the PFA’s four-year-long campaign to have this item on the agenda. [Yet] a ruling in Israel’s favor would be interpreted by many as an acknowledgment that the six settlements [where these clubs are located] are part of sovereign Israeli territory. FIFA would like to do neither, and yet if the item is ever brought to a vote, [delegates] are caught in a zero-sum game where they have to make a choice.

Should FIFA rule against Israel, the likely reprimand will be a six-month window to remove the clubs from the Israeli league system or face suspension from FIFA and the removal of Israel’s national soccer team from competitive matches such as World Cup Qualifying.

However, compliance would be perhaps more significant still. If the PFA can remove the settlement’s soccer clubs through FIFA, it might give more impetus to the greater Palestinian aspiration of removing the settlements themselves through the UN. We are potentially seeing a microcosm of the Palestinian strategy to internationalize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and once again shirk bilateral negotiations, through the prism of soccer.

Read more at BICOM

More about: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Palestinian Authority, Soccer, Sports

Hamas Wants a Renewed Ceasefire, but Doesn’t Understand Israel’s Changed Attitude

Yohanan Tzoreff, writing yesterday, believes that Hamas still wishes to return to the truce that it ended Friday morning with renewed rocket attacks on Israel, but hopes it can do so on better terms—raising the price, so to speak, of each hostage released. Examining recent statements from the terrorist group’s leaders, he tries to make sense of what it is thinking:

These [Hamas] senior officials do not reflect any awareness of the changed attitude in Israel toward Hamas following the October 7 massacre carried out by the organization in the western Negev communities. They continue to estimate that as before, Israel will be willing to pay high prices for its people and that time is working in their favor. In their opinion, Israel’s interest in the release of its people, the pressure of the hostages’ families, and the public’s broad support for these families will ultimately be decisive in favor of a deal that will meet the new conditions set by Hamas.

In other words, the culture of summud (steadfastness), still guides Hamas. Its [rhetoric] does not show at all that it has internalized or recognized the change in the attitude of the Israeli public toward it—which makes it clear that Israel still has a lot of work to do.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security