FIFA’s President Sepp Blatter said yesterday that he does not see a reason to take actions against Israel in next month’s FIFA Congress, though Palestinians have said they will urge delegates to do so.
Palestinians say Israeli security forces, who control movement between the Gaza Strip and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, frequently prevent athletes from traveling freely between the two separated territories.
Israel cites security concerns but says it has eased travel for athletes between Palestinian territories.
Blatter, who met in Ramallah on Monday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and head of the Palestine soccer Association Jibril Rajoub, has said that he would work towards finding a “solution” to Palestinians’ demands.
He held meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and with the head of the Israeli FA, who said that he was willing to hold a match “for peace” between Israel and Palestine teams.
“I think that soccer can be a bridge for peace and if they [referring to the Palestinians] will want, as I have offered more than once to Jibril Rajoub, that once he decides I’m willing to hold a match between Israel and Palestine for peace,” said Avi Luzon.
The FIFA Congress is scheduled to be held in Sao Paulo on June 9-10, just before the start of the World Cup in Brazil.
Blatter said he hoped the world would see a trouble-free World Cup.
“The World Cup in Brazil is very popular also for people here in Israel or Israeli all around the world, and I do hope they will witness, and I’m sure they will witness a wonderful competition and I do hope a wonderful competition that is not too much bordered by social unrest,” he said.
Palestinians have said a Task Force established by Blatter last year that included both nations and representatives from UEFA, Israel’s European confederation and the AFC, Palestine’s Asian confederation, had failed to implement any real change or improvement on the main issues of freedom of movement and access for Palestinian athletes.
Jibril Rajoub, head of the Palestine FA and also head of the Palestine Olympic Committee, has said that they would press ahead with demanding sanctions if Blatter fails to convince Israel to lift the restrictions on the travel and movement of Palestinian athletes.