NO RIGHT TO DECIDE
"To being with, neither [Palestinian Football Association head] Jibril Rajoub nor anyone else no matter how high his rank – even if president – has the right to decide to enter a major battle such as filing a motion to expel or suspend Israel's membership in FIFA and then withdraw or postpone it," writes Hani al-Masri in the leading Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.
Such important issues, which will have major consequences in case of either victory or defeat, should be studied within the proper national and institutional frameworks before the appropriate decision is taken. This is essential if the national collective and its institutions are to assume responsibility for these consequences, whether positive or negative. After all, one person’s decision can be influenced or totally determined by their personal assessments and interests. As for decisions taken by national institutions, they reflect collective assessments and express the national interest.
But the main catastrophe is that, for a long time now, the Palestinians no longer have one collective national institution or a single national program, or even a single decision or leadership. The [Fateh/Hamas] split has persisted and has deepened vertically and horizontally, affecting everything. We now have various leaderships and authorities, and the result is that every Palestinian group now seeks its own salvation by itself.
There are a million questions regarding how Palestinian decisions are taken and how the authority to take these decisions has been transformed more and more into the president's prerogative alone in the absence of any effective role for PLO institutions – the Executive Committee, the Central Council, and the National Council that were formed a long time ago without elections and without renewal by accord.
At the same time, the various executive, judicial, and legislative powers have been concentrated and monopolized in the hands of a single person [the president] driving the Palestinian political regime further and further towards a one-man-rule regime without any participation, checks, or accountability.
This pattern is reproducing itself at every level and in all positions. A single person is in charge of what happens in the sports domain; another in the security domain; a third in the economic sphere, a fourth in education, and so on. This is because Palestinian politics do not deal with institutions but with issues each with one person in charge, while the final authority belongs to the president alone with the help of some figures who do not constitute an institution or even a 'kitchen-cabinet'.
This is the context in which to place and best understand Rajoub’s unilateral decision to request to freeze Israel's membership in FIFA raising expectations so high as to speak of the possibility of securing 160 votes out of the total of 209, which is more than the number needed for the motion’s success. It is in this context as well that we can best explain the subsequent 180 degrees U-turn and the claim/excuse that insisting on the motion would not have secured the required number of votes, or that a prior vote would have blocked the Palestinian motion since it politicizes sports, which is inconsistent with FIFA's role.
In both cases, a major mistake was committed and the person responsible must bear responsibility for it. The person responsible for this mistaken assessment – that the Palestinian motion could proceed and reach the voting phase, or that it would not proceed and would be blocked, or would be defeated if a vote were cast – must be held accountable for this mistake. He must be held accountable instead of transforming defeat into victory, as the Arabs are famously wont. For calling for the motion was presented as securing the formation of a FIFA committee as proposed by Israeli PM Netanyahu to [then FIFA head] Blatter during his latest visit, and whose job would be to monitor any Israeli racist violations and any restrictions on the movement of players; as for the issue of the Israeli settler teams, that is not part of FIFA's areas of expertise.
Yes, the battle with the racist, Zionist, settlement occupation is an open battle in FIFA and everywhere else. And losing this round does not mean the end of the war. It requires more work on expelling Israel from FIFA and from all international institutions, on prosecuting it legally and on imposing isolation, boycott, and sanctions on it for the crimes it has committed in the past, and its ongoing crimes such as settlement activities.
But this requires reviving the Palestinian leadership's credibility which has been badly eroded because of the failure to persevere with the policy of gathering the means of influence and power with the aim of adjusting the balance of power and reaching a moment when the occupation and the entire Israeli colonial project become more costly for Israel and those who back it than whatever benefits they may accumulate from them.
Henceforth, it will be more difficult to convince states to back any new Palestinian effort because many of them will view such efforts as no more than a ploy whose aim is to exert pressure with the aim of returning to the bilateral negotiations under American – or merely formal international – sponsorship. After all, the [2009 Gaza] Goldstone Report was postponed and when that postponement was retracted, the report's findings were not implemented. We have also obtained The Hague's Court's legal fatwa [condemning the Israeli West Bank Separation Wall], which is a legal and political treasure that granted the Palestinians more than they had asked for-- but they did nothing with this achievement. Instead, the court’s judgment was shelved, and construction of the Separation Wall continues. In fact, I fear that the time may come when we may lose the majority in the various international institutions because of the lack of faith in the Palestinian performance.
Another issue has accompanied the withdrawal of the Palestinian request and aggravated the situation further. This is the Palestinian’s ambiguous attitude towards the competition between Blatter and [Jordan’s] Prince Ali bin Hussein over FIFA's presidency. It seemed that the Palestinian position leaned in favor of Blatter and that the decision to vote in the prince's favor was taken at the very last moment. In fact, Rajoub admitted that he was late in taking that decision.
And the question here is this: Why hesitate in choosing between an Arab and another candidate? If Blatter is better for the Palestinians, then this should be made clear. And if there are personal calculations or mistaken assessments at work, then those who brought them to the table should be held accountable.
Of course, this gives no one in Jordan or anywhere else the right to speak badly of the Palestinians or harm the relationship between the Palestinian and Jordanian peoples. That relationship has been at its best for some time and this must be built upon rather than undermined.
"And why have we not seen campaigns against Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Libya, and the other Arab countries that voted in Blatter's favor? This further indicates that conditions are continuing to deteriorate to such an extent that unless an Arab project emerges that responds to Arab rights and interests and lifts up the Arab peoples, we will all be facing a catastrophe in the full sense of the word," concludes Masri.