Israel Reaches Compromise, Staving Off Palestinian FIFA Expulsion Bid

Under new version of the bid, committee will look into freedom of movement of Palestinian soccer players, Israeli racism and the status of Israeli teams based in the West Bank.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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Israel Football Association president Ofer Eini (R) shakes hands with members of the Palestinian FA and president Jibril Rajoub (2nd L) during FIFA Congress in Zurich, May 29, 2015.
Israel Football Association president Ofer Eini (R) shakes hands with members of the Palestinian FA and president Jibril Rajoub (2nd L) during FIFA Congress in Zurich, May 29, 2015. Credit: AFP
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Israel reached a compromise with International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) officials on Friday and staved off a vote on the Palestinian proposal to ban Israel from world soccer at the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich, Switzerland.

At the Congress, Palestinian soccer chief Jibril Rajoub announced that the Palestinians had decided to drop the bid. Then, the Congress passed an amended version of the Palestinian proposal, which called for the formation of a committee to look into freedom of movement of Palestinian soccer players. The committee would also look at Israeli racism and the status of Israeli league teams based in the West Bank.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the developments on Friday, saying in a statement that the result "proved our international efforts paid off and brought about the failure of the Palestinian Authority's attempt to expel us from FIFA (and) I want to thanks those involved especially Israel Football Association chairman Ofer Eini."

Netanyahu further said that "Israel is interested in peace which would create security for its citizens, but this will not be achieved through coercion and manipulation. The only way to reach peace is through direct negotiations."

Netanyahu derailed the Palestinians for what he called a "provocation," saying it joined a long list of "unilateral actions taken by the Palestinians in the international arena. As long as these efforts continue peace will only be further delayed."

Earlier in the day, pro-Palestinian protesters interrupted President Sepp Blatter's opening remarks, waving red cards at FIFA representatives and chanting "Israel out!" before being escorted out of the hall by security guards.

Reaching a compromise

Israeli officials met with FIFA officials until late Thursday night in an effort to draft a compromise proposal, but the Palestinians held onto what Israeli sources termed rigid and extreme stances.

A source in the Israeli delegation said that Rajoub demanded on Wednesday that the United Nations rule on the status of five Israeli soccer teams based in the West Bank as a condition for withdrawing the Palestinian proposal.

Netanyahu on Thursday told reporters that if Israel is suspended from FIFA following the vote, it would destroy the association. “It would be a blatant politicization of sport and the result will be FIFA’s collapse,” Netanyahu said.

“The Athenian Assembly thousands of years ago collapsed when they started ousting people. They cancelled its universality. The same will happen with FIFA. We’ll fight against it.”

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