A soccer team from the occupied West Bank will not be allowed to play in Israel, the Israeli government said Thursday, even though the Israeli Football Association (IFA) had agreed to let them play in the country.
The decision came as the Israeli soccer association held a public meeting to decide on the fate of the team, which had played its first game in the city of Hebron.
The decision comes as tensions between Israel and the Palestinians escalated after Israel’s announcement of a settlement freeze on the West Bank.
The announcement was made on Tuesday at the annual Herzliya soccer tournament, which the IFA organizes.
IFA president and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the decision is the result of “political decisions” by Israeli soccer officials, who decided that the team would not be able to compete in Israel.
“I’m sorry that I cannot bring you to the IFI board,” Olmerts said.
“We decided that because of political decisions that they cannot participate in Israel.”
Olmert’s remarks came amid growing tensions between Israelis and the Palestinian Authority, with Israel accusing Palestinians of committing acts of violence in the West Wall, which has become a flashpoint between Israelis who oppose the Israeli occupation and Palestinians who oppose their annexation of the Palestinian territories.
“We’re disappointed,” said Yossi Rabinovich, a member of the Israeli team’s governing body.
“The fact that there is no place for us in the [Israeli] state is not a good reason.
We need to have a clear understanding of where we stand.
It’s better to stay in the world and be free than to come and play in a place where we don’t belong.”
In November, Israel announced a moratorium on all stadium construction on the Western Wall and the Gush Etzion bloc, and in March, the country agreed to suspend all settlement activities in the territories.
The announcement came after Israel announced the freeze on building construction in the area, which Palestinians claim as their future capital.
Israel’s decision to freeze all settlement construction in Hebron and the West Jerusalem region comes after months of intense pressure from the international community over the construction of new homes in East Jerusalem and in the occupied Golan Heights.
Earlier this month, the UN Security Council imposed new sanctions on Israeli officials and organizations over the settlements, which includes the illegal construction of Jewish-only settlements in the Golan.
The move came amid the ongoing Israeli campaign to curb the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Muslim groups.