Palestinian Soccer Chief: Israel 'Playing Games' in Talks on Easing Travel Restrictions

Palestinian FA chief Jibril Rajoub accuses Israel of using 'bullying' tactics, says rhetoric must be followed by practical steps.


The world soccer association's initiative to resolve travel restrictions on Palestinian players is doomed to fail unless Israel abandons its "bullying policy" and stops "playing games," Palestinian Football Association chairman Jibril Rajoub has said.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter on Tuesday expressed hope a solution would be found be the end of the year. After holding talks with Rajoub and his Israeli counterpart, Avi Luzon, Blatter said he was "optimistic" that a viable solution would be found and approved by Israeli authorities.

"I welcome FIFA's decision to supervise and mediate but I have never trusted the Israelis and nothing has changed," Rajoub told in an interview published on Friday. "It's not possible to bridge the gap of mistrust quite so easily."

FIFA recognizes Palestine as a national team but Israel's denial of travel visas to Palestinian players and officials from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip forced the side to forfeit its place in qualification for the 2010 World Cup. The issue flared again last month when teams from Iraq, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates struggled to arrive for a Palestinian-hosted youth tournament. That impasse prompted Rajoub to call on FIFA to expel Israel from its ranks.

During the meeting, Rajoub said, Luzon only made unsubstantiated accusations. In order to gain the trust of the Palestinians Israel must take practical steps, he said. "If FIFA can get guarantees from the other side, then yes that would be an historic breakthrough."

Rajoub said there was no room for compromise and that the only answer would be granting equal rights to the Palestinian association.

"The ball is in Israel's court to stop their bullying policy and give the other side the same rights. Both associations should be allowed to function independently It's up to the Israelis to come up with a permanent strategy. At the moment they are just playing games."

Rajoub in Ramallah in 2011.Credit: Sharon Bukov
Players of the Palestinian soccer team in the West Bank town of A-Ram. Credit: AP

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