TEL-AVIV: Mixed signals emerged from the meeting between Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and FIFA president Sepp Blatter over the Palestine resolution issue writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

The Palestine Football Association has registered a demand at the world federation’s congress on Friday next week that Israel be suspended over the long-running freedom of access dispute.

Blatter emerged from the meeting Jerusalem insisting an agreement was within reach as he heads on to Ramallah to meet Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and local sports chief Jibril Rajoub.

However Netanyahu was firm in expressing a warning that Blatter and FIFA should not, as he saw it, allow the Palestinians to politicise a sports issue.

“Sport is a vehicle of goodwill among nations,” Netanyahu told Blatter. “The thing that could destroy the Football Association is politicising it. You politicise it once with Israel, then you politicise it for everyone, and it will cause the deterioration of a great institution.”

However Netanyahu was favourable to Blatter’s proposal for a friendly match between Israeli and Palestinian national teams within the year.

Election congress

Blatter, who met the heads of two federations in Zurich last week without reaching agreement, does not want the row to cloud a congress which he expects to reach a climax with his own re-election as FIFA president.

He said, after meeting Netanyahu, that he was confident a solution was within reach.

Blatter said: “I have obtained a message which I will present to the Palestinian Football Association and Palestinian politicians as part of my mission. I remain confident that we will find a solution for the benefit of football development ahead of the FIFA Congress.

“Football is nowadays such a strong organisation that we should go into a peace situation and not into a fighting situation, and football shall connect and not divide people.

“I’m very happy about what Prime Minister Netanyahu has said. Yes, football is stronger than all the problems there could be. I’m sure we will find a solution.”

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