Palestinians to request Israel be suspended from FIFA

West Bank officials complain of restrictions on movement of players, limitations on importing equipment

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Head of the Palestinian Football Association Jibril Rajoub speaks during a press conference in Ramallah on February 12, 2014. (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Head of the Palestinian Football Association Jibril Rajoub speaks during a press conference in Ramallah on February 12, 2014. (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

The Palestinian Football Association intends to ask FIFA, the governing body of world soccer, to suspend Israel amid unresolved complaints that Israeli-imposed restrictions are hindering the training of Palestinian players, the Gulf Times reported on Tuesday.

Palestine Football Association (PFA) president Jibril Rajoub is to submit a draft resolution next month citing Israeli controls that “inhibit our ability to develop the game.”

Among the difficulties the Palestinians said they face are restrictions on the movements of players between the West Bank and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip as well as limits on the import of sports equipment into the Palestinian territories.

Suspension from FIFA could affect the Israeli national team’s ability to play against international teams.

The issues have been a source of contention for several years while Israel maintains the restrictions are needed for security reasons. In 2013, FIFA President Sepp Blatter led an effort to negotiate a solution together with Israeli and Palestinian officials, but was unable to solve the problems.

In addition, the PFA also intends to complain about alleged racist behavior by Israeli soccer fans towards Israeli-Arab players in local teams, according to the report. Claims that Israel is also violating international law by allowing five teams from Israeli settlements to play in the domestic soccer league will also be included, the report read.

Rajoub has also been pushing to remove Israel from the Union of European Football Associations because of the curtailing of Gazan athletes’ freedom of movement.

Earlier this month UEFA president Michel Platini warned Israel Soccer Association chairman Avi Luzon that Rajoub’s efforts are “serious” and may gain international traction, Israeli news website Ynet reported.

There has been some easing of the restrictions on travel between Gaza and the West Bank. Last week, Israel allowed 46 athletes passage from Gaza to the West Bank to partake in the Palestine marathon.

The Palestinian Olympic Committee had requested entry permits for 55 runners ahead of the third annual marathon to be held in Bethlehem, nine of which were rejected by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).

One of the athletes granted permission was Nader al-Masri, a champion runner who was refused entry in the past and appealed to the Israeli High Court through Gisha, an Israeli NGO specializing in Palestinian freedom of movement.

Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza after Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007 from forces loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel says the restrictions are meant to prevent Hamas from getting weapons and weapons material.

Elhanan Miller contributed to this report.

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