FIFA President to meet with PM Netanyahu over Palestinian bid to eject Israel from football association.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter will travel to the Middle East to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and top Palestinian officials in a bid to head off a Palestinian bid to expel Israel from the sport’s governing body, FIFA said in a statement Sunday.
However, the Palestine FA (PFA) will not drop its proposal for a vote at the FIFA Congress to suspend Israel from international football although it will continue to pursue dialogue, its president Jibril Rajoub told Reuters on Sunday.
Rajoub met his Israeli counterpart Ofer Eini and Blatter at the headquarters of soccer’s governing body in the latest attempt to end the impasse between the two sides.
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The PFA accuses Israel of hampering its activities and restricting the movement of players between the Gaza Strip and the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Israel cites security concerns for the restrictions it imposes.
“Both member associations agreed to pursue the dialogue,” said FIFA in a statement.
“(FIFA President Blatter) confirmed that he will travel to Israel and Palestine to meet their respective FA Presidents and Heads of State ahead of the FIFA Congress.”
For the Palestinian proposal to pass, it would need the approval of 75 percent of FIFA’s 209 member associations at the annual congress in Zurich on May 29.
As well as restrictions on movement, the PFA has cited issues surrounding the curbs Israel places on the import into the Palestinian territories of sports equipment and visits by foreign teams and individuals.
FIFA has been trying to find a solution to the Palestinian complaints for more than two years.
“The proposal (to suspend Israel) will remain on the agenda,” Rajoub said in a telephone interview.
“A dialogue is not a solution, the solution is that the Israelis have to come and recognize our rights to develop the game according to the statutes of FIFA.
“We told the Israeli FA that they have enough time to come to the Congress with a proposal to end our suffering. We recognize their association and the right of their footballers to enjoy the game and we want to enjoy the same rights.
“I want to end the suffering of Palestine football rather than cause suffering to others,” he said. “I don’t wish the suffering of the Palestine footballers on anybody, including Israel.
“I shook hands with them (the Israeli delegation), they are my neighbours,” added Rajoub. “But I wish they would join me and fight against discrimination.”
If FIFA were to suspend Israel, it would bar all its teams and clubs from competing in international competitions such as the Champions League and Euro 2016 qualifiers.
Israel is a member of UEFA and Palestine is part of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
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