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Israel and Palestinians do ‘historic’ soccer deal

    Under-16 Jordanian and Palestinian players compete in Ramallah (Photo: AP)
    Under-16 Jordanian and Palestinian players compete in Ramallah (Photo: AP)

    The heads of the Israeli and Palestinian football associations shook hands in a closed-door meeting in Zurich last week in an effort to resolve issues related to Israeli security measures affecting Palestinian footballers.

    The talks were brokered by Fifa, the game’s international governing body, of which both the Israeli and Palestinian football associations are members.

    Following the meeting, Jibril Rajub, Palestinian, and Avi Luzon, Israeli, agreed to allow a Fifa delegation to be sent to Amman, Jordan this month in order to assess issues regarding restriction of movement for Palestinian players and officials travelling in and out of the Palestinian territories.

    “As I am an optimist, at the end of the year we will have found a solution and will present it to the political authorities in Israel,” Fifa President Sepp Blatter told reporters last Tuesday.

    Calling the meeting “historic”, Mr Blatter added that “the basic problem in the region is the security problem of Israel and the fact that Palestine is recognised as a full member of Fifa but is not yet recognised as a full member of the United Nations.”

    The meeting was held only weeks after a heated row over Israeli restrictions on players, which resulted in the postponement of a Palestinian Football Association (PFA) youth tournament.

    The PFA subsequently called for Fifa to suspend Israel over the issue.

    For its part, Israel says that security measures are necessary, even in football.

    Palestinian militants have used football facilities to store weapons and as a base from which to fire rockets into Israeli cities.

    “I hope that both the associations will work towards a bilateral solution to this issue and the Asian Football Confederation will no longer have to face the issue of movement of players and officials to and from Palestine in the future,” said AFC President Shaykh Salman bin Ebrahim el Khalifa in a statement released last Tuesday.

    Mr El-Khalifa thanked the Fifa president for initiating the talks, and expressed a desire “to see Palestine host more AFC competitions in the future”.

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