KEIR RADNEDGE in ZURICH: Amid an electric atmosphere a full-scale drama was played out on the floor of FIFA Congress as the football federations of Palestine and Israel edged to a hard-won compromise.
Originally the Palestinians, angrily impatient over the long-running freedom of access dispute, had been demanding a vote by the 209 national associations to suspend Israel from world football.
But PFA president Jibril Rajoub, in an emotional speech, said he had decided to withdraw the proposal at the request of other federations and, in particular, the persuasive words of veteran South African anti-racism campaigner Tokyo Sexwale.
Rajoub presented an amended proposal for a monitoring committee. This was approved by congress and followed by a handshake between Rajoub and IFA president Ofer Eini who had spoken up powerfully in response.
The reality behind the scenes was that the Palestinian proposal, needing a three-quarters majority, would have been defeated. Hence the new proposal left pride intact in every direction – Palestine, Israel and FIFA itself.
Rajoub, in a spiky address, said: “I am here to find a solution to a painful issue rather than to score goals even against those who are responsible for my football family suffering.”
He recalled the mediation attempts by FIFA which had been tried and failed over the previous two years. Hence the proposal to vote of Israel’s suspension.
However Rajoub added: “This year I came with a proposal which I think is a right but a lot of colleagues whom I respect, and whose commitment to the ethics and values of the game I appreciate, explained to me how much its painful for them to hear the issue of suspension being raised within the family.”
Rajoub said FIFA vice-presidents Issa Hayatou and Michel Platini had been among those who sought to persuade him to withdraw but the key contribution came from Sexwale, inspired by the example of Nelson Mandela.
His alternative was a proposal for a monitoring mechanism controlled by FIFA Congress.
Eini, who insisted on the right to respond, saw football “as a bridge to the peace that we all want.” But this process had to be encompassed within the football family, leaving “politicians to deal with politicians.”
Addressing Rajoub directly, he added: “Let’s you and I join forces and do the best e can for football on both sides. I am saying, in front of everyone, I want us to work together, to cooperate, to hug and embrace each other.
“The differences, if we have any, we should be able to resolve by listening to one another.”
Indeed, after some cross-congress negotiation skilfully controlled by FIFA president Sepp Blatter, the new proposal was endorsed by 165 votes to 18 with 26 abstentions.
There as no hug but Eini and Rajoub did shake hands . . . as Blatter duly noted later in his address appealing for the votes for re-election.
Herewith the text of the amendment presented by the Palestine Football Association to FIFA.:
In order to end the suffering and discrimination of our Palestinian football family at the hands of the illegal and racist occupation of our land, we have presented a proposal for a final solution. After several meetings with Mr. Blatter, Mr. Valkce, and representatives from different confederations and associations, with the aim to facilitate the feasibility and implementation of our proposal, we have made the following clarificatio.
The proposal stipulates 3 main concerns of the PFA in regards of IFA violations of FIFA Statutes, including
1. Restrictions of Palestinian rights for the freedom of movement. Players and football officials both within and outside the borders of the occupied State of Palestine, have been systematically restricted from their right to free movement, and continue to be hindered, limited, and obstructed by a set of unilateral regulations arbitrarily and inconsistently implemented. This constitutes a direct violation by IFA of Article 13.3 of the FIFA Statute, specifically in relation to Article 13.1(i) and its correspond articles in UEFA rules
2. The continued racism and discriminatory behaviour of IFA officials and clubs in direct violation of not only the principles of FIFA, (including FIFAs no-tolerance policy against racism and discrimination) but specifically in violation of Article 3 of the FIFA Statute and corresponding UEFA rules; and
3. The grave concern over at least five Israeli clubs located in illegal settlements in the occupied State of Palestine. The presence of the Israeli clubs, located in territory recognized by the international community as part of the State of Palestine, constitutes a direct violation of Articles 83 and 84 of the FIFA Statutes, including relevant UEFA rules
As a viable and effective resolution to the above issues and violations of FIFA Statutes, it is proposed th
FIFA will appoint a multi-lateral monitor group to work directly under the rules of the FIFA Ethics, Legal, and Discrimination committees, and will be composed of International Observers
The monitor group will ensure the freedom of the PFA to develop its activities at the highest level possible, and be in accordance with FIFA requirements and standards, with special attention to Article 3 of FIFA Statutes and under FIFAs objectives as described in article 2 of the said Statutes
The monitor group will supervise the possible infringement of FIFA rules by IFA and their clubs, with special attention to Article 3 of FIFA Statutes
The Congress, if approved by a majority as established under Article 27.6 of FIFA Statutes, and based on its prerogatives under article 14.1 of the said Statutes, will act in accordance with Articles 83.2 and 84 of FIFA Statutes. If shown to be true that these Israeli teams discussed are based on, and playing out of occupied Palestinian lands, the Israeli Football Association will face the consequences of Article 14.1 in relation to Articles 13.1 and 13.2, ; and
In order to prove the territorial issue, which will be the basis for any measures implemented by FIFA statutes, FIFA will request the United Nations to officially notify FIFA of UN General Assembly Resolution 67/1