FIFA President Sepp Blatter visited with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and announced the country’s football association did not discriminate against Palestinians and will not receive a suspension.
“We should not come to one federation saying we will exclude them,” Blatter explained. “If the national association is fulfilling its obligations then there is no need to intervene. I’m on a mission for peace and not on a mission to force anybody to do something. The discussions that I will have with the Palestinians will evoke the messages I have obtained from Israel’s political authorities.”
He continued, “What they do with this message is up to them. But I will try until the Congress begins to avoid such a situation [where a vote will be held]. Israel knows it and the Palestinians know it. It is not appropriate that in the Congress we say we shall suspended somebody.”
The Palestinians maintain Israel “has continued to hamper their soccer activities, imposing restrictions on the movement of their athletes between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.” They also voiced concerns of the “curbs Israel places on the import into Palestinian territories of sports equipment and on visits by foreign teams and individuals.” The Israeli government maintains that they base decisions on security concerns while the football association “has argued that it has no control over security forces.”
Blatter then visited with Palestinian Football Association President Jibril Rajoub and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. He failed to convince both to throw out their complaints against Israel.
“We will keep the proposal on the agenda [of the upcoming FIFA Congress] for sincere and open discussions by the FIFA member associations,” stated Rajoub. “There will be no compromising on free movement of our athletes and officials.”
The Israeli government lashed out at the Palestinian authorities for attempting to mix politics and sports.
“Sport is a vehicle of goodwill among nations and the thing that could destroy it is politicizing it,” said Netanyahu. “You politicize it once with Israel, you politicize it for everyone, and it will cause the deterioration of a great institution.”
Blatter also wants the Israel and Palestine to compete in a “peace match.”
“Football is more than a game,” he claimed. “Football has the power to connect people. Football has the power to construct bridges. Football shall unite people and not divide people.”