KEIR RADNEDGE at the DEAD SEA: Palestine’s attempt to force through the suspension of Israel from international football has made it, despite the efforts of Sepp Blatter, on to the agenda for FIFA Congress on May 29.
Blatter, the world football federation’s president, has led attempts over the past two years to ease the long-standing dispute concerning freedom of movement of athletes and sporting goods in and out of Palestine.
However in March Jibril Rajoub, head of both the PFA and the Palestinian Olympic Committee, indicated he had run out of patience and would submit a resolution to congress in Zurich demanding action.
Rajoub had spoken out during congress in Mauritius in 2013 and his threat to submit a resolution last year in Sao Paulo was headed off only by some last-minute shuttle diplomacy from Blatter.
The Israeli football authorities insist they have worked hard to improve matters but possess no power of control or influence over the strategy of government and security services.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter has appealed ever more loudly over the past two months for efforts to keep politics out of sport but his words have fallen on deaf ears.
The Palestinians insist that responsibility for bringing politics into this sporting arena is down to the Israeli security services.
Israel is a member of European federation UEFA while Palestine is a member of the Asian Football Confederation which reiterated its support only last week.
AFC president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa suggested during last week’s Asian congress that the rest of the world did not appreciate some of the challenges confronting members – “such as the oppressive situation facing our brothers and sisters in the Palestinian football community.”
He reassured them: “We will be there to support you not only in words but in deeds.”
His 46 members are now programmed to have the opportunity to do just that during FIFA Congress. The suspension of Israel would need a three-quarters majority, ie, 156 of the 209 members.
Blatter, who does not want the Palestine/Israel issue drawing a shroud of controversy over his own likely re-election, may yet travel to both Israel and Palestine in search of a further truce.
Rajoub will prove hard to persuade this time around.
Last month he said: “There has been no progress, no compromise. We cannot keep suffering. The international community cannot tolerate the Israelis’ irrational policies towards the Palestinian sports family.
“The difference this time is that the proposal is on the congress agenda and we will go for the vote despite all the pressure exerted against us.”
** Item 14 on the Congress agenda, concerning the two co-opted women members of the executive committee, indicates that Australia’s Moya Dodd and Sonia Bien-Aime (Turks & Caicos) will be maintained for a further year.