CAIRO: Sepp Blatter will undertake yet another attempt to soothe Palestinian anger over the vexed issue of freedom of movement of athletes through Israel writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
The world football federation president is heading for Cairo where, along with his election rivals, he will attend Tuesday’s congress of the African confederation of football.
However top of his agenda will be the latest demands from Palestine that May’s FIFA Congress vote to suspend Israel from international football.
The proposal follows the failure of a FIFA task force, over the last two years, to achieve any significance change in the dispute over the freedom of movement of athletes and sporting goods.
Last year, on the eve of congress in Sao Paulo, the promise of further efforts to improve matters was enough to persuade the Palestinian Football Association, reluctantly, to withdraw a similar demand.
However Jibril Rajoub, head of both the PFA and the Palestinian Olympic Committee, has finally run out of patience and signed off on a further proposal.
Rajoub said over the weekend that Blatter had requested a meeting in Cairo to review the latest progress – or lack of it.
The Palestinians’ resolution to FIFA Congress calls for the suspension of Israel until:
1, Players, staff and officials can move freely into, out of and within Palestine;
2, football equipment can be imported without hindrance;
3, Football facilities can be developed in Palestine without hindrance;
4, Clubs established in the illegal settlements in the West Bank are banned from playing in Israel Football Association competitions; and
5, The IFA takes firm action to eliminate racist and apartheid practices from its own leagues.
Israel is a member of the European federation UEFA while Palestine is a member of the Asian Football Confederation.
Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, the AFC president, recently declared his commitment to tackling the “illegal Israeli practices” hindering Palestinian football.
Israel’s hosting of UEFA’s European Under-21 finals in 2013 was considered provocative by the Palestinians and sparked demonstrations around the European federation’s congress in London a few weeks beforehand.
UEFA president Michel Platini stated then that Israel had the same right as every other member to host a tournament. He used the same argument in reverse: to bar Israel from playing host, or withdraw the tournament, would have meant giving it to political pressure.
Suspension from FIFA by congress would need a three-quarters majority, ie, 156 of the 209 members.