FIFA president Sepp Blatter said Tuesday he will attempt to persuade the Palestinian Football Association to withdraw a bid to get Israel suspended from world football’s governing body.
Blatter was scheduled to meet with the association’s president Jibril Rajoub in Cairo 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.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter (Photo: AP)
“A suspension of any member affects badly the whole organization,” he added.
The Palestinians accuse Israel of continuing to hamper their football 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 Islamist-run Gaza Strip.
It 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 Palestinian Football Association.
An army spokesman 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 towards Arab players by some Israeli fans.
The Palestinian Football Association said Israel was violating international law by including five clubs from Jewish settlements in the West Bank in their domestic league.