Israel's European allies key to blocking Palestinians at Fifa



Israel's European allies played a pivotal role in removing a motion to have Israel expelled from international football at the Fifa Congress in Zurich last Friday.

The head of the Palestinian Football Association, Jibril Rajoub, said in interviews after the congress that he had agreed to drop the motion following pressure from Arab states.

However, it was actually the European governments represented in Uefa, particularly the influential German association, that had applied most of the pressure.

At one point during the 24 hours leading up to the scheduled vote, there was concern within the Israeli delegation that Fifa President Sepp Blatter, mired in corruption allegations against close colleagues and seeking re-election for a fifth term, would help the Palestinian bid.

In the event, however, both Mr Blatter and his rival for the presidency, Prince Ali Bin Hussein, supported Israel's efforts to take the vote off the agenda.

At the last moment, after weeks of brinkmanship, Mr Rajoub agreed to cancel the vote in return for assurances that the Israeli government would allow special passage for Palestinian footballers and coaching staff, and that a special Fifa committee would examine the issues of travel limits for the footballers, alleged racism against Arabs in Israeli football and the participation of teams from the settlements in the Israeli leagues.

Mr Blatter, who was overseeing proceedings, steamrollered the vote through, despite Mr Rajoub's attempts to get the congress to pass the issue of settlement teams to the UN.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had been heavily involved in the diplomatic manoeuvring ahead of the vote, hailed the result as a victory.

On Sunday, Mr Netanyahu said that the attempt to expel Israel was not connected to the situation of the Palestinians in the West Bank: "We have made many concessions, but that didn't change anything, because this is a much deeper campaign of delegitimisation which is trying to deny our very right to live here."

Mr Netanyahu had hosted Mr Blatter the previous week in Jerusalem, in an attempt to enlist his support in preventing the vote. A senior Israeli diplomat said this week: "We have no illusions about who Blatter is and we knew that even before the arrests in Zurich, but this is what you have to do in the diplomatic battlefield."

Senior Israeli diplomatic sources also said that there was never a real prospect of the Palestinian motion receiving the necessary 75 per cent of the votes to pass.

There was, however, a feeling that the fact that the Palestinians had scored a victory in making their case at a time when the corruption investigation had focused world attention on the Fifa Congress. Israeli sources believe this will almost certainly lead to similar initiatives in the not-too-distant future.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive