It is starting to become a tradition.
Once a year, the Jibril Rajoub public relations world tour makes stops from Zurich to any other all-expenses- paid destination the president of both the Palestinian Football Association and the Palestinian Olympic Committee is lucky enough to be invited. The Fatah Central Committee member transforms from convicted terrorist into media star, receiving more interview requests than the rest of the year combined.
If one wants to know the time of the year when Rajoub becomes relevant, they need just take one look at the FIFA event calender.
Around one month prior to the annual FIFA Congress, usually around springtime, is the season in which Rajoub is in full blossom.
He talks endlessly about how he has Palestinian sports’, in this case soccer’s, best interests at heart. However, let there be no mistake, the Palestinian Football Association’s bid to suspend the Israel Football Association from FIFA will in no way help any Palestinian athlete.
He may explain that the mere threat of suspension will lead to better conditions for Palestinian players, but that couldn’t be any further from the truth.
Rajoub’s approach to FIFA to hold a vote in this year’s Congress in Zurich on May 29 with the aim of banning Israel has everything to do with his own personal and national political aspirations and very little to do with helping those who in many cases are truly in need.
The Palestinians claim that Israel has continued to hamper their soccer activities, imposing restrictions on the movement of their athletes between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
The PFA has also cited curbs Israel places on the import into Palestinian territories of sports equipment and on visits by foreign teams and individuals.
Israel cites security concerns for the restrictions it imposes and the Israeli FA has argued that it has no control over security forces.
Had Rajoub been truly interested in developing sports among Palestinians, he would find plenty of helping hands in Israel.
Israel may not be the world’s greatest sporting nation (to say the least), but it still has much to offer to the Palestinians when it comes to sporting expertise.
As the president of the Palestinian Olympic Committee, Rajoub knows that well. He knows that swimmers who have represented his people at the Olympic Games in the past did much of their training with Israelis in Jerusalem, with the two swimming associations working together for the benefit of the athletes.
Similar results could be achieved in other sports had Rajoub chosen to follow a course of dialogue.
However, instead of using sports as a bridge to coexistence, Rajoub abuses his position to further political interests.
There are countless of sporting initiatives which promote coexistence between Jews and Arabs, both within Israel and between Israelis and Palestinians, and many of them have proven to be a resounding success.
Rajoub may well believe that cooperating with Israeli sports authorities does not benefit the cause of the Palestine Liberation Organization. However, claiming that it would not be best for Palestinian athletes is ridiculous.
Rather than working with those who can actually help, Rajoub uses sports as a means of pressure which achieves nothing but wasting the time of everyone involved.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and FIFA President Sepp Blatter have probably come to curse this time of the year when they have to clear space in their schedules to satisfy Rajoub’s folly.
Blatter met with Netanyahu, Israel Football Association Chairman Ofer Eini and CEO Rotem Kemer in Jerusalem on Tuesday before traveling to Ramallah on Wednesday for talks with Abbas and Rajoub.
Eini and Kemer have been busy rallying support from across the world to persuade the Palestinians to drop their proposal, and ensure that if it does come to the vote, the required majority will not be met.
A three-quarter majority of FIFA’s 209 members is required for the Palestinian proposal to pass.
A suspension would mean that Israel, which is affiliated to UEFA, could no longer compete in the Euro 2016 qualifiers and its clubs would be barred from European competition.
Two years ago, FIFA established a task force which included President Blatter, the Israeli and Palestinian soccer chiefs and the heads of the European and Asian soccer confederations to examine the Palestinian complaints and to try and resolve them.
However, despite the progress that has been made, Rajoub continues to insist Israel is “persecuting Palestinian footballers, athletes and the movement of sporting equipment.”
Blatter has gone out of his way to help the Palestinians, but even he has had enough of Rajoub’s shenanigans and has said he is worried that a dangerous precedent will be set if the Palestinians go ahead with their proposal.
The Swiss administrator, who has been FIFA president since 1998 and is standing for reelection at next week’s Congress, has insisted all along that Israel has not broken any FIFA statutes and is rightfully concerned that if the Palestinian proposal were to be approved, other nations could use soccer to air political grievances.
But Rajoub could hardly care less.
He knows exactly what he is doing and to hell with sports.
Unfortunately, the ones who end up suffering the most from his irresponsible actions are the very Palestinian athletes on behalf of whom he speaks. They, in particular, deserve a lot better than Rajoub.[email protected]