ZURICH: FIFA president Sepp Blatter is heading back to Israel and Palestine in May in the hope of securing enough progress to stave off trouble at Congress in Sao Paulo in June writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Since 2011 Blatter has shuttled to and fro in pursuit of a working relationship between the two sides to ease problems over of freedom of movement for players and officials in and out of the West Bank.
The current negotiating spiral has been undertaken with assistance from the two relevant confederations from Europe (UEFA of which Israel is a member) and Asian (AFC for Palestine).
Tensions increased earlier this year when two teenage Palestinians – Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, and Adam Abd al-Raouf Halabiya, 17 – were maimed after being shot by Israeli security forces while returning home from training.
Jawhar was shot eleven times in his feet, Adam was shot once in each foot.
At FIFA Congress in Mauritius last year Jibril Rajoub, president of the Palestine football association, expressed his anger at a lack of progress.
He warned that, without significant progress from Tel-Aviv, he would ask congress this year to expel Israel from membership of FIFA.
Blatter, seeking to head off a damaging split on the eve of the World Cup finals, emerged from his latest executive committee meeting to explain his hopes for a step forward.
He said: “The last meeting between the two parties was in February in Zurich. We have nominated a liaison officer for both Israel abd Palestine and it works – not perfectly but it works.
“They announce, three weeks in advance, when a team or players will come [to Palestine] and they give a list of players and coaches and then Israel can have a look. There have been one or two incidents but, with good understanding, it works.”
Blatter acknowledged that “the international situation is not very comfortable.”
Hence he and representatives of UEFA and AFC would return to the region in May to meet political leaders from both sides including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Blatter added: “We hope that at congress in Sao Paulo in June we can announce that the two national associations could sign a kind of memorandum of understanding.”
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