Diplomacy

Netanyahu, After Palestinian FIFA Vote: Such Efforts “Push Peace Further Away”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dubbed the aborted Palestinian bid to suspend Israel from FIFA—the governing body of international soccer—a “unilateral step, that “push[es] peace further away instead of bringing it closer.”

The Palestinian Football Association (PFA) abruptly withdrew its bid to suspend Israel from FIFA today, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Moments before the vote was set to begin, the PFA President Jibril Rajoub asked to speak at the congress and amend the original proposal which had called to suspend the Israel Football Association.

Rajoub said that he decided to drop the bid for suspension due to the many requests he received from the different FIFA delegates and instead asked to set up a committee which will monitor the issues in question. …

IFA chairman Ofer Eini asked to speak after Rajoub and said he backs the amended proposal, which according to Blatter will ensure there will be “a mechanism of monitoring” the Palestinian complaints. The proposal to set up a committee that will monitor the movement of Palestinian players and goods and try and find a solution regarding the five Israeli clubs located in the West Bank was approved by a vast majority (165 to 18).

In a statement released after the decision to form a monitoring committee, Netanyahu said:

Our international effort has proven itself and led to the failure of the Palestinian Authority attempt to oust us from FIFA. I thank all those took part in the international effort that led to the failure of this attempt, including the Israeli delegation in Switzerland led by Israel Football Association Chairman Ofer Eini. The State of Israel is interested in a peace that will ensure security for its citizens but this will not be achieved through coercion and distorting the truth. The only way to achieve peace is to begin negotiations between the sides.

This Palestinian provocation joins the unilateral steps that the Palestinians are taking at other international institutions. So long as they take these steps they will only push peace further away instead of bringing it closer.

At a time when the international community is calling for confidence-building measures, the Palestinians are once again replying with an attempt to carry out unilateral steps that harm the ability to advance a regional settlement.

Another task force was created two years ago to deal with Palestinian complaints, as Aiden Pink documented in Could Israel Get Booted Out of Soccer?, which was published in the June 2015 issue of The Tower Magazine.

FIFA was forced to step in after a 2013 incident in which Iraqi, Jordanian, and Emirati players and coaches were temporarily prevented by Israel from entering the West Bank to play in a youth tournament, leading Rajoub to “ask for a red card” and suspend Israel from FIFA. Instead, Blatter convened a task force consisting of himself, Rajoub, then-IFA president Avi Luzon, FIFA Vice President (and Prince of Jordan) Ali bin-Al Hussein, and the presidents of the Asian Football Confederation (of which the PFA is a member) and the Union of European Football Associations (of which Israel is a member, because Arab and Muslim countries in Asia refuse to play matches against teams from the Jewish state, forcing them to play European teams against whom they are generally outmatched).

The 2013 task force led to the creation of FIFA Circular 1385, a plan by which “The PFA shall notify the Palestinian authorities 35 days in advance of the possible movement of Players and Officials into, out of, and within Palestine. The Palestine authorities shall in turn inform the Israeli authorities.” This plan had the potential to be quite challenging. For example, the “Palestine authorities” in the West Bank are part of Fatah, which alternately partners with and fights civil wars against the terrorist group Hamas, which is the current “authority” of Gaza. Nor did the plan address the underlying security concerns from within Palestinian-controlled areas that forced Israel to restrict travel in the first place. Nevertheless, the task force’s designated monitor, Cyprus Football Association President Costakis Koutsokoumnis, reported earlier this year that he was satisfied with the progress made in implementing Circular 1385—more than 95 percent of Palestinian travel requests have been approved this year, according to the IFA. Koutsokoumnis also noted that the IFA could not be faulted for travel policies over which it had no control.

[Photo: wochit News / YouTube ]