President of the Palestinian FA Jibril Rajoub shows a red card as he speaks during the 65th FIFA Congress on May 29, 2015 in Zurich..
(photo credit: AFP/MICHAEL BUHOLZER)
The threat to suspend Israel from FIFA was lifted on Friday afternoon after a compromise was reached with the Palestinian Football Association following extraordinary scenes at the 65th Congress held in Zurich, Switzerland.
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.
"I am here to play football, rather than to play politics. I want to end suffering," said Rajoub. "I decided to drop the suspension but it does not mean that I give up the resistance. A lot of colleagues who I respect and I appreciate explained to me how it is painful for them to hear in this family about the issue of suspension."
The PFA has accused Israel of hampering its activities and restricting the movement of players between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Israel cites security concerns for the restrictions it imposes and the country's soccer association has argued that it has no control over security forces.
Soccer's world governing body has been trying to settle the matter for two years and FIFA President Sepp Blatter this month traveled to the region and met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas.
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).
"I don’t want to point any fingers at the Palestinian side. Let’s leave it to the politicians to do politics. Let’s join forces. I want us to work together, I want us to cooperate," said Eini. "The differences – if we have any – we should be able to resolve by listening to each other. Everyone is sitting here as friends. There are always disputes.
"I hope that our cooperation will be the beginning of a process that maybe will lead to peace between our peoples," added Eini. "I think all problems can be resolved. I believe and hope that with the help of the president of FIFA we can make football a bridge for peace." Eini also called upon Rajoub to join him on stage for a handshake, a request initially declined, with the two only ultimately shaking hands next to the Palestinian delegation's desk after the proposal had been approved.
Prime Minister Netanyahu took to Facebook to comment on the matter.
"Our international effort proved itself and resulted in the Palestinian Authority's failure to suspend us from FIFA," his post read. "This Palestinian provocation joins a list of unilateral steps the Palestinians are also taking in other international organizations. As long as they take these steps, they are distancing peace rather than bringing it closer." Reuters contributed to this report.