TEL-AVIV: Israeli football leaders have lodged a formal complaint with European federarion UEFA that Palestine deliberately tried to provoke an incident to support a bid to have the IFA suspended from world football writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

Sepp Blatter, president of the world federation, has failed thus far after two weeks of increasingly frenetic shuttle diplomacy, to persuade the Palestinian football association from pressing a vote on the issue at FIFA Congress in Zurich next Thursday.

Subsequently the PFA complained to FIFA that the Israeli security authorities detained briefly a national team player as the squad travelled from the West Bank to Tunisia yesterday.

The PFA said Sameh Maraabah was stopped at the Allenby Bridge crossing between the West Bank and Jordan. The team bus waited and Maraabah was eventually allowed to continue with his colleagues, who then flew from Jordan to Tunisia to attend a training camp.

Last year Maraabah had been jailed for two months last year after being convicted of being a courier for Hamas.

Travel plans

Israel had accused Maraabah of returning from a team trip to Qatar in April 2014 bearing money, a mobile phone and messages given to him by a Hamas operative whom Israel had exiled to the Gulf state as part of a prisoner exchange.

An Israeli security official said Maraabah was questioned briefly about his travel plans and was warned by authorities not to engage in any more “forbidden activities against the state of Israel”.

But PFA president Jibril Rajoub wrote to Blatter in protest, saying: “The implications of this incident can only confirm the PFA’s position on the promises given by the Israeli Government; that they are only words unless they are included in a solution that can only come through, and be guaranteed by, the FIFA Congress.”

Rajoub’s stance was rejected by his Israeli opposite number, Ofer Enei.

In a letter of his own to UEFA president Michel Platini, Eini accused the Palestinians of “deliberately creating a needless provocation.”

A statement said: “The Israeli Football Association will file an official complaint with FIFA against the Palestinian federation following its latest attempt to create an unnecessary provocation of the Allenby Bridge during the crossing of the Palestinian football team.

“The Palestinian association, as part of the strategy towards the FIFA Congress at the end of next week and the request to suspend Israel, went beyond the agreements with FIFA and the Israeli Union, require notice and transfer a list of names of Palestinian athletes before they left the game.”