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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Intra-Arab Rifts the Real Reason for Palestinians’ FIFA Failure

Filed under: Palestinians, The Middle East

The Palestinians’ failure to get Israel expelled from Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is no cause for Israeli complacency. The reason that the Palestinian attempt failed has less to do with Israeli diplomacy, and more to do with intra-Arab rifts.

Behind the intra-Arab rift stands tension between Qatar, on the one hand, and Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States, on the other. The latter view Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup in Doha in 2022 as an effort to promote the Muslim Brotherhood’s agenda on the world stage. The Gulf States watched with concern as Qatar recruited FIFA President Sepp Blatter to its cause. In response, they backed Prince Ali of Jordan against Blatter in order to stop the Brotherhood from gaining access to Europe via the World Cup.

Intra-Arab Rifts the Real Reason for Palestinians’ FIFA Failure

There are other political concerns at stake as well. Qatar has earmarked Jibril Rajoub, the head of the Palestinian Football Association, Fatah activist and former head of the Palestinian Preventive Security Force, to succeed Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas once he steps down. Rajoub, for his part, maintains close ties with Hamas in Gaza. (His counterpart in Gaza is Abd al-Salam Haniyeh, son of the Hamas prime minister.) The issue of freedom of movement between Gaza and the West Bank is aimed at creating a convenient link between Hamas and the West Bank. Thus, Qatar’s backing of Rajoub as eventual PA president is aimed at opening the West Bank to Hamas.

Jordan is worried by Rajoub’s maneuvers. In general, Jordan’s relations with the PA in Ramallah have severely deteriorated since the PA forced Jordan’s UN ambassador to table a proposal that contradicts Jordan’s position on the status of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Since then, the king has not received Abbas for talks. Palestinians then expelled two senior officials of the Jordanian religious establishment from Al-Aqsa on May 22, 2015 [Watch the video], and now have come out against the Jordanian candidate for FIFA president.

It’s clear that Israel is not the only country upset with the Palestinians’ recent diplomatic games. Jordan is seething, and the Gulf States are also disappointed. The last word on this matter has probably not been spoken.