ZURICH (AFP) — Palestine’s football chief on Wednesday continued his refusal to back down on a threatened vote to suspend Israel from football’s governing body after talks with increasingly desperate FIFA president Sepp Blatter.”Nothing has changed, the vote is still on the agenda,” Palestinian Football Association president Jibril Rajoub told AFP after the meeting with Blatter and as the countdown to Friday’s vote gathered pace.
“The meeting lasted about one hour, there were no results,” Rajoub said.Palestine, which has been a FIFA member since 1998, wants the governing body to suspend Israel over its restrictions on the movement of Palestinian players, and opposes the participation in the Israeli championships of five clubs located in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, illegal under international law.
The vote is scheduled for Friday and needs a simple majority of over 50% of the 209 members to succeed.Blatter has been lobbying furiously to try to avoid the vote, travelling to the Middle East last week to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and president Mahmoud Abbas.Blatter strongly opposes the vote saying it brings politics into football and that Israel has not breached FIFA’s statutes.Israel Football Association President Ofer Eini was not in Wednesday’s meeting and his delegation did not say whether contacts with Blatter or Rajoub were planned.Arab delegations at a Confederation of African Football meeting walked out when Eini addressed the confederation in a Zurich hotel.Rajoub said he opposed the protest and the Arab delegations should have stayed.
Players a ‘security question’
Blatter’s main talks have been with Rajoub and Israel Football Association President Ofer Eini who says restrictions on Palestinian players are a security question.Eini appealed to UEFA president Michel Platini to speak against the Palestinian bid last week.”IFA is facing one of its most crucial situations since it was established in the year 1928, finding ourselves in the need to defend ourselves against a proposal which is totally political and has nothing to do with the objectives of FIFA and the spirit of football,” Eini wrote.While Eini fights for the separation of politics and football, the routine restrictions placed on Palestinian players by Israeli authorities under the pretext of security has long hindered the Palestinian National Football team’s abilities to play.Including rare instances for holding home games, players residing in the Gaza Strip are generally barred from traveling to the West Bank for practices, and others at times detained during football-related travel. Players have reported that shipments of sports equipment are often delayed at Israeli checkpoints, sometimes never making it onto the field.Member of the Palestinian National Football team Roberto Kettlun told Ma’an that restrictions on movement and racism against players are among the most pressing constraints facing him and his team members.The national team itself includes several who previously lived outside of occupied Palestine. Due to restrictions and difficulties in obtaining exit visas from Israel for Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, players are often drawn from Palestinian diaspora to play for the national team.”I think for tomorrow we have a good chance to do something important…we hope FIFA will stick to their own statues and act according the international resolution passed by the UN in 1967, where it says clearly the territories which belong to the Palestinian Authority,” Kettlun told Ma’an, referring to the participation of teams from illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.Israel has faced international criticism for its policies in regards to PNF players previously, including a widespread boycott of a 2013 championship held in Israel, campaigned by the movement Red Card Israeli Racism and petitioned by human rights leaders such as Desmond Tutu.
UEFA President Michel Platini ignored the boycott however, and the championships were held anyway in June 2013.Despite difficulty, the national team has managed to play worldwide, most recently in the Asia Cup in 2014.The FIFA bid to take place Friday is one of several moves by Palestinian bodies to confront violations committed in ongoing Israeli occupation via international bodies.”Our requests are clear, just and fair: Freedom of movement, end of racism and expulsion of all teams from illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestine competing in the Israeli league,” Rajoub said in statement Tuesday.Ma’an staff contributed to this report.