Bid to Suspend Israel From FIFA Brings Blatter to the Region

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Palestinian soccer chief Jibril Rajoub, left, and FIFA President Sepp Blatter in Ramallah in April.Credit: Reuters

World soccer chief Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA, will visit the Middle East shortly ahead of a bid by the Palestine Football Authority to have Israel suspended from the sport's governing body, Palestine FA head Jibril Rajoub said on Sunday.

The Palestinians announced last week that they would submit their proposal at the FIFA Congress in Switzerland on May 28-29. The stated grounds for the bid to suspend Israel are the restrictions that Israel supposedly places on Palestinian footballers, particularly on the movement between Gaza and the West Bank.

Blatter is expected to attend the 37th congress of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in Cairo on Tuesday.

"I am going to meet Blatter in Cairo to discuss the draft resolution that we have requested – that either Israel honor its commitments or it will be suspended from membership of FIFA," Rajoub said. "The meeting is at Blatter's request."

Blatter is due to meet Arab soccer chiefs in Bahrain next month and will take the opportunity to visit the Palestinian territories, Rajoub said.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli Football Association declined to comment on whether Blatter would also meet Israeli soccer chiefs during his trip. In past visits, the FIFA president has met with both neighbors.

The Israeli FA is confident that FIFA will not accpt the Palestine request that Israel be suspended.

"The Israeli FA believes that FIFA and Sepp Blatter at its helm, and the heads of the various federations and associations will not permit a move which seeks to mix sport and politics in a manner that is completely opposed to the principles of the organization and the aims of the game," the Israeli FA said in a statement last week.

In 2013, Blatter set up a task force to examine the Palestinian complaints and to try to resolve them. The team includes himself, the Israeli and Palestinian football chiefs and the heads of the European and Asian football confederations.

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