According to an exclusive report on Monday from a website called Inside World Football, FIFA has given Israel until the summer to improve travel and playing conditions for Palestinian soccer players, with the threat of expulsion as a member of soccer’s world governing body hanging ominously overhead.
While this issue is not a new one, there has been added pressure in recent months after FIFA President Sepp Blatter visited the Middle East last July to try and help push forward the process between Israel and Palestine.
In recent weeks, the Palestinian Football Association has publicized that it would demand Israel’s expulsion from FIFA at this summer’s FIFA Congress at the World Cup in Brazil, unless travel restrictions for sportsmen between the occupied territories and Israel were removed.
Representatives from Israel’s highest soccer authorities have responded that Palestinian players and officials have enjoyed greatly improved access to move in and out of the West Bank and Gaza.
“It has never been the policy of FIFA and UEFA to mix politics and sport,” Israel Football Association CEO Rotem Kemer told www.insideworldfootball.com. “We are making our best efforts in order to help the Palestinian association. We are trying to make things easier for them.”
Blatter’s visit to the region led to the establishment of a FIFA Task Force to figure out the best way to fully resolve the issue.
Palestine soccer’s leading figurehead, Jibril Rajoub, and IFA Chairman Avi Luzon have reportedly been in close contact recently and have both publicly stated that they are fully committed to reaching a solution.
Kemer maintained that important progress is being made and that he doesn’t anticipate severe sanctions, if any at all.
“I don’t think we will be expelled from FIFA because we are making good progress with the Palestinians,” he said. “I would say we are on the right track.”