FIFA President Sepp Blatter says he will attempt to persuade the Palestine Football Association to withdraw a bid to get Israel suspended from world soccer’s governing body.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter after a press conference in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday – Photo: AP
Blatter said he was to meet with the association’s president Jibril Rajoub in Cairo later on Tuesday in an effort to convince him not to place a resolution on a possible Israeli suspension on the agenda for the FIFA Congress in Zurich next month.
“I will try to convince him that such a situation should not occur at FIFA,” Blatter told reporters after attending Tuesday’s Confederation of African Football (CAF) Congress.
“A suspension of any member affects badly the whole organization,” he added.
The PFA accuses Israel of continuing to hamper its soccer activities, frustrated at restrictions they say Israel imposes on the movement of their athletes between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
The Palestinian Football Association also cited curbs Israel places on the import into Palestinian territories of sports equipment and on visits by foreign teams and individuals.
Blatter said he had been mandated to intervene in the dispute by FIFA’s executive committee and two years ago established a task force which included himself, the Israeli and Palestinian soccer chiefs and the heads of the European and Asian soccer confederations to examine the Palestinian complaints and to try to resolve them.
Last year he persuaded Rajoub to drop a similar plan for the FIFA Congress in Sao Paulo, ahead of the World Cup in Brazil.
Last month, however, Rajoub said he had lost patience, and called on FIFA to show Israel “the red card.”
Israel cites security concerns for restrictions it imposes in the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule, and along the border with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
Israel says it has eased travel for Palestinian athletes between the two territories, which requires passage via Israel.
In December, Rajoub called on FIFA to sanction Israel after Israeli troops entered the offices of the Palestine Football Association.
The IDF said at the time soldiers were seeking a wanted individual and were not targeting the premises because of its links to soccer.
The Palestinian draft resolution calls for Israel’s suspension because its actions “inhibit our ability to develop the game.”
It also complains about racist behavior toward Arab players by some Israeli fans.
The Palestinian Football Association said Israel was violating international law by including five clubs from Jewish communities in the West Bank in its domestic league.