In an effort to mediate between Palestinian and Israeli football associations, Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) President Joseph “Sepp” Blatter is expected to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Tuesday and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Wednesday.
Blatter met with presidents of the Israel Football Association (IFA) and the Palestinian Football Association (PFA), Ofer Eini and Jibril Rajoub respectively, in Zurich on May 10, the FIFA website reports.
The meeting did not produce results, according to AP.
In March, following two years of talks, the PFA has made a proposal to suspend the IFA at the FIFA Congress that will take place on May 28-29 in Zurich.
The PFA claims gross violations of FIFA’s code of conduct by Israel, including “Israeli security restrictions limiting movement of Palestinian players, visiting teams and soccer equipment,” AP reports.
The complaint also notes that Israel has damaged football facilities and allows football teams from five West Bank Israeli settlements to compete in the Israeli league despite international law forbidding it.
Rajoub told Haaretz “we are ready to withdraw our proposal to revoke Israel’s membership in FIFA if Israel presents a different position that meets our demands” and asked for the violations listed in the proposal to be halted.
An Israeli foreign ministry official talking to Haaretz called Rajoub politically-motivated and said “[Rajoub] wants to replace Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas when the time comes, and action against Israel over soccer issues is the ticket he is riding.”
Blatter, who opposes the suspension vote, was optimistic. “Netanyahu would not receive the FIFA delegation if he would not be ready to make concessions,” he said.
If the Palestinian proposal goes to vote, a 75 percent majority is needed to suspend Israel. While this is not a likely outcome, a small majority vote could mean sanctions against Israel.
In his blog post in the Jerusalem Post, the Israeli author Gershon Bashin discussed the FIFA case in the larger context of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
“Being that almost no one in the world sees the chance of a negotiated solution today, the international community will adopt the Palestinian position that pressure must be applied to Israel so that both the government of Israel and the people of Israel come to the conclusion that the continuation of the occupation is no longer sustainable or in Israel’s interest,” he writes.
“It is in our own interest to cease our rule and control over the Palestinians and to work with them to find a peaceful solution … [Otherwise] more steps will be on the way… More painful [than boycotts, divestments and sanctions] for the Israeli mindset will be the actions of organizations like FIFA.”