The Palestinian Football Association are pushing ahead for a vote calling for the suspension of Israel from the world football organisation at FIFA’s congress in Zurich.
Israel refuses to budge on Palestinian demand to suspend Israeli teams based in the occupied territories. The Palestinian delegation insists it will push for a vote unless Israel expels five teams based in illegal Israeli settlements from its football league, despite last-ditch attempts at mediation by world football officials
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The five teams are Ma’aleh Adumim, Ariel, Kiryat Arba, Bik’at Hayarden and Givat Ze’ev – which play in Israel’s lower divisions.
“Compromise is possible on issues like movement of [Palestinian] players and equipment, if a mechanism can be agreed,” a member of the Palestinian delegation told the Guardian. “But no compromise is possible on the settlement teams continued playing in Israel’s league.”
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The comments came as it appeared that the Palestinian vote might require less than the widely reported 75% of the 209 member delegations to back Israel’s suspension.
Palestinian officials believe that – in the first instance – they require only a straight majority under Fifa rules with 75% being required to ratify and renew a suspension. If the vote does takes place it will be in a secret ballot.
There has been confusion over what precise numbers are required to suspend Israel, with Fifa officials previously insisting that a 75% majority was required.
Both Palestinian and Israeli delegations in Zurich have been working around the clock since arriving in the midst of the biggest scandal to hit the world football organisation.
Twin Swiss and US investigations focussing on a far-reaching culture of kickbacks in Fifa have thrown the congress in Zurich into chaos, including both the re-election bid of Fifa president Sepp Blatter and other business on the agenda including the Palestinian bid to have Israel suspended.
Israel has sought the support of the European regional grouping UEFA of which it is a member to vote against the proposed suspension.
Its efforts to avoid a vote – which some see as damaging in itself as a vote for suspension – have seen it enlist Israel’s ministry of foreign affairs as well as the lobbying of key Fifa officials.
The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, weighed in on Thursday, telling reporters that if Israel is suspended “it would be a blatant politicisation of sport and the result will be Fifa’s collapse”.
Mediation efforts led by Blatter, who visited Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories last week, has made progress on some issues.
According to Blatter, he reached agreement with Netanyahu on several key areas, including providing laissez passer documents to Palestinian athletes, referees and sports officials; an exemption from customs on all sports equipment to the Palestinian Football Association and the establishment of a committee to hear disagreements.
Israel is however refusing to budge on a final critical issue – the Palestinian demand to suspend Israeli teams based in the occupied territories.
On Thursday Pro-Palestinians staged a rally in the Swiss city of Zurich to call on football’s governing body, FIFA, to expel Israel from world soccer tournaments.
The protesters gathered outside the venue for the 65th FIFA Congress, waved pro-Palestine banners and flags, and shouted, “We want justice! We want freedom!” and “Free, free Palestine!” as delegates turned up for the event.
Palestinian Football Federation President Jibril Rajoub also said, “This protest shows that the world is fed up with the naughty Israeli attitude against the international laws, the FIFA laws, and the human rights law. I hope that FIFA will realize how Palestinian athletes suffer, and I hope they will help them to achieve their rights to play this game, develop it, and promote it.”
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