Palestinians threaten soccer sanctions on Israel

Palestinians threaten soccer sanctions on Israel

Palestinian Football Association demands that Netanyahu recognize its international status

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

A match between the Palestinian and Jordanian national soccer teams in 2008 (photo credit: Michal Fattal/Flash90)
A match between the Palestinian and Jordanian national soccer teams in 2008 (photo credit: Michal Fattal/Flash90)

The Palestinians will demand that Israel be suspended from soccer’s international association unless Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recognizes the status of the Palestinian Football Association, PFA Chairman Jibril Rajoub threatened on Monday.

“If Netanyahu does not stand up and declare that he agrees to the status that FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football ASsociation) has granted us, we will demand their removal on the tenth of June in Brazil,” Rajoub told The Times of Israel.

Palestinian soccer officials have long complained that Israeli restrictions on movement inside the West Bank and between the Palestinian territory and Israel, which Jerusalem maintains are necessary for security, have made it difficult for them to compete on an international level. In 2010, Israel’s denial of travel documents to several players and officials caused the Palestinian team to forfeit its place in World Cup qualifying matches, and in 2013 teams from Iraq, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates had trouble entering the West Bank for a youth tournament.

FIFA officials have said they want to see the long-simmering issue resolved, and in February the Palestinian Football Association said that it would seek to expel Israel from FIFA during the FIFA congress this summer in Sao Paolo unless conditions improved.

Jibril Rajoub (Photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)
Jibril Rajoub (Photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)

The Palestinians would only hold back their appeal to FIFA if Netanyahu recognizes the PFA’s status as a member of FIFA as well as its right to be a member of the Israel Football Association, according to Rajoub.

Rajoub also said that IFA chairman Avi Luzon had told him in private that Luzon did not have the power to fix the situation, and added that he felt the PFA’s chances with FIFA were “very good”

However, Israel Football Association CEO Rotem Kemer said in April during a European soccer congress in Kazakhstan that he doubted Israel would be sanctioned over of the problem, which he said the IFA was making efforts to solve.

Kemer further maintained that the Palestinians must not threaten to seek Israel’s expulsion because “it has never been the policy of FIFA and UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) to mix politics and sport.”

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