Netanyahu: Kicking Israel out of FIFA will ruin world soccer

Organization due to vote in Zurich today on Palestinian motion.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter speaks during the opening ceremony of the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich, May 28 (photo credit: REUTERS)
FIFA President Sepp Blatter speaks during the opening ceremony of the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich, May 28
(photo credit: REUTERS)
If world soccer governing body FIFA votes to oust Israel, it will be bad for Israel, but ultimately destroy the organization, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday.
The prime minister spoke during a briefing with the country’s diplomatic correspondents, came on the eve of Friday’s annual FIFA meeting, and as Israel was working intently to prevent the Palestinian motion to kick Israel out of the organization from coming to a vote.
“The attempt to hurt Israel politically will destroy FIFA, because it will start with Israel and then go to one country, and then the next,” he said. He said this would mark the ultimate politicization of sport.
Netanyahu said that when he served as ambassador to the UN in the 1990s, his first speech – which lasted three minutes – had to do with efforts at the time to get Israel expelled from the world body.
“I said that it was clear that disagreements had to be dealt with in an equal manner, and that the model for all parliaments was the ancient Greek Assembly,” he said. He then reminded them that the Greek Assembly eventually fell apart because of the practices of ostracizing members.
“The same thing is liable to happen to FIFA,” he said.
The prime minister’s remarks came as additional demands raised by FIFA President Sepp Blatter – now beleaguered with a massive scandal – in a meeting with Israel Football Association chairman Ofer Eini on Thursday have added to concerns about Friday’s vote.
The Israeli officials had believed they were nearing a compromise that would see the Palestinians withdraw their proposal after negotiations between the sides had resulted in understandings on several issues.
Proposing Israel’s suspension, the PFA has accused it of hampering its soccer activity in the West Bank by imposing travel restrictions on its athletes and overseas visitors.
Israel cites security concerns for the restrictions and has proposed procedures to ease travel for athletes and sporting officials.
The parties agreed that once a month a committee, which includes the IFA, Palestinian Football Association and FIFA representatives, will meet to solve any travel problems that might arise, with certain players and officials to receive passes that will allow them to travel without special permission.
Israel also agreed to help the PFA build new stadiums in the West Bank.
In Thursday’s meeting with Eini in Zurich, however, where FIFA’s 65th Congress is being held, Blatter asked the IFA to also agree that FIFA would approach the UN to determine whether the five Israeli clubs that are based in the West Bank can be part of the IFA, while also demanding to set up a committee that will look into racism in Israeli soccer.
Eini rejected Blatter’s additional requests and said he would rather the proposal come to a vote.
The IFA is concerned that FIFA’s corruption scandal could hurt its chances in the vote.
“Undoubtedly there is a lot of politics going on here, and unfortunately Israel’s position is not great,” Rotem Kamer, chief executive of the IFA, told Walla. “We are being portrayed as an apartheid state.”
Kamer said the confluence of a reelection bid by Blatter and the arrest in Zurich of seven senior figures in the organization on US corruption charges was not helping Israel.
“There is no way of knowing which way the vote will go when Blatter is seeking reelection.
There is no doubt that he can be pressured, also because of the affair that has just exploded,” Kamer said. “He needs the Arab votes and it could be that to this end, Israel will have to be sacrificed.”
Blatter visited Israel, including the West Bank, this month but failed to find a compromise that would head off the PFA’s call for a vote. If Israel were suspended, its clubs and teams would be unable to take part in international competitions such as the Champions League and Euro 2016 competitions.
The Palestinian complaints are long-standing, with the PFA having put them on the agenda of FIFA meetings in 2013 and 2014.
Last-minute compromises were found in the past to prevent the issue coming to a vote.
Eini told UEFA delegates on Thursday that he expects them to stand by Israel’s side if Friday’s vote goes ahead. A vast majority of the 54 European members are likely to vote against the proposal, meaning it is likely the Palestinian proposal will be defeated, as 75 percent – 157 members – of the 209-member body are needed for it to pass.
Even though it is unlikely the Palestinians will garner 157 votes, Jerusalem would very much prefer that the motion not come to a vote.
Although Israel could claim that the world’s “moral majority” voted against the move, if some 100 countries vote for it, it would demonstrate Israel’s weakness in the international arena and could invite other such initiatives.
“The basic principle that needs to be adopted,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon, is that “there is a need to completely separate sports and politics.”
Meanwhile, as PFA head Jibril Rajoub is leading the charge, Palestinian Media Watch issued a report saying Rajoub promotes terrorism.
The report said Rajoub is a convicted terrorist who spent 15 years of a life sentence for throwing a grenade and “continues to call for the murder and slaughter of Israelis.”
The report quoted an interview with him on the Fatah-run Awdah TV in August 2014 saying that Fatah’s relations with Israel are those between enemies and “no one is stopping anyone” from “slaughtering a settlement.”
“Our political decision is resistance in the occupied territories in order to bring an end to the occupation [using] all forms of resistance,” he said.
The report quoted an anti-Semitic rant he uttered on official PA TV in 2012, saying there will never be normalization of ties with Israel.
“Next time we are prepared to bring the Executive Committee in helicopters [so they won’t go through Israel]... They will see no Jews, no Satans, no Zionist sons of bitches.
Come by helicopter and go back by helicopter,” Rajoub said.