(Yonatan Sindel/Flash90) (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Soccer Israel flag

Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israeli football leaders will meet FIFA President Sepp Blatter to oppose a Palestinian bid to prevent Israel from participating in international soccer games.

Jibril Rajoub

President of the Palestinian Football Federation Jibril Rajoub. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with FIFA (Federation of the International Football Association) President Sepp Blatter on Tuesday in order to lobby against the Palestinian bid to suspend Israel from FIFA. Israel argues that the Palestinian move is fueled by politics, both internal and external, and violates the neutral spirit of sport. The premier will be joined by Israel Football Association chairman Ofer Eini and CEO Rotem Kemer.

Blatter is scheduled to meet on Wednesday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jibril Rajoub, head of the Palestinian Football Association (PFA). Rajoub has called on FIFA to suspend Israel for “persecuting Palestinian footballers, athletes and the movement of sporting equipment.” Israel has noted that several athletes whose movements have been restricted are members of terrorist organizations and pose a threat to Israeli security.

The Palestinian bid is likely being fueled by Rajoub’s own political ambitions. The PFA head is a long-standing member of Fatah, the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority, and he sits on the Fatah Central Committee. He is also Abbas’s rival and potential successor. Rajoub led the Palestinian Preventive Security Force under former PA head and arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat, a position he used to suppress political dissent, often brutally. In 2012, he dismissed as “racist” the Israeli request for a moment of silence at the Olympics to remember the 11 Israeli athletes murdered at the 1972 Munich Olympics by Palestinian terrorists. In 2013, he expressed regret that the Palestinians were unable to nuke Israel.

Prime Minister Netanyahu (R) meets with FIFA President  Blatter in Jerusalem, May 2014. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Prime Minister Netanyahu (R) meets with FIFA President Blatter in Jerusalem, May 2014. (Haim Zach/GPO)

If the Palestinians are successful in suspending Israel from FIFA, it would mean that Israel could no longer compete in Europe or participate in the Euro 2016 qualifiers for the World Cup. Israel is affiliated with the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) after having been expelled from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in 1974 under Arab and Muslim pressure.

Blatter has not been supportive of the Palestinian proposal, saying that it would set a dangerous precedent by allowing FIFA to become a forum for political conflicts. He noted that Israel has not violated a single FIFA statute.

The vote to suspend a FIFA member requires a supermajority of 75% – 157 out of FIFA’s 209 member countries – in order to pass. If Israel is suspended, it will be yet another black mark on the reputation of the soccer association, whose name has become synonymous with scandal. In the Middle East alone, FIFA officials have been accused of granting Qatar the 2022 World Cup in return for financial incentives. Over 1,000 foreign workers have died constructing the necessary infrastructure in Qatar, a rate of one every other day, and there are still seven years to go until the event.

By: Sara Abramowicz, United with Israel