Jibril Rajoub. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90) (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Jibril Rajoub

Not only did PA sports chief Jibril Rajoub fail in his attempt to eject Israel from world soccer, but he is being chided on the Palestinian street for betraying their cause.

After weeks of pushing to have Israel ousted from FIFA (international football association) for alleged abuse, Palestinian Authority (PA) soccer chief Jibril Rajoub withdrew plans to force a vote on the issue at the last minute.

A PA victory would have prevented Israel from playing in international matches. The vote was unlikely to succeed, however, as it would have required the support of 75 percent of FIFA member countries.

The football governing body voted instead on an amendment proposing the formation of a committee to monitor the movement of Palestinian football players and the status of Israeli league teams based in Judea and Samaria.

FIFA Blatter Netanyahu

PM Netanyahu (L) and FIFA President Blatter. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

“I am here to play football rather than play politics,” Rajoub claimed from the stage. “I don’t want to score goals, I want to end suffering.”

Rajoub, a convicted terrorist, eventually accepted his Israeli counterpart Ofer Eini’s offer of a public handshake in the hall after an awkward stand-off lasting several minutes.

“Football is a uniting element, not a dividing element,” Eini said earlier.

The handshake followed FIFA President Sepp Blatter steering away Rajoub’s request for a separate vote registering protests against Israeli soccer.

Last week a Palestinian player was briefly detained while leaving Israel in order to train in Tunisia. Israeli security officials said the player was detained because he had served in the past as a courier for Hamas.

FIFA had agreed with Israel’s soccer association that state security concerns were out of their control.

The threat of a suspension vote kept Blatter busy in diplomacy for several weeks before Friday’s presidential election meeting, where he hoped to present FIFA as a united football family.

Still, Rajoub held firm and forced a debate less than an hour before the election began.

Rajoub said he withdrew the vote after heeding FIFA vice presidents who urged unity over discord. It seems he also feared a colossal failure if tested by an actual vote. He then used his FIFA platform to call for free movement of Palestinian players. “It’s not an emotional issue for me, it’s a life-or-death issue,” Rajoub said from his seat in the hall as Eini stood on stage.

Israeli soccer officials toured Zurich hotels in recent days, explaining their position to FIFA delegates. At one regional meeting on Wednesday, Islamic delegates from North Africa walked out in protest.

Pro-Palestinian activists protested outside the conference hall Friday.

Israeli Leaders Congratulate Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday that Israel’s “international effort has proven itself” and led to the failure of the PA attempt to oust Israel from FIFA.


President Rivlin. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

He thanked the Israeli delegation that fought against the Palestinian onslaught, adding that “the State of Israel is interested in a peace, but this will not be achieved through coercion and distorting the truth. The only way to achieve peace is to begin negotiations between the sides.”

“This Palestinian provocation joins the unilateral steps that the Palestinians are taking at other international institutions. So long as they take these steps they will only push peace further away instead of bringing it closer,” the premier warned. “At a time when the international community is calling for confidence-building measures, the Palestinians are once again replying with an attempt to carry out unilateral steps that harm the ability to advance a regional settlement.”

President Reuven Rivlin joined in congratulating the Israelis for their success at FIFA, “in a difficult situation, that could have finished entirely differently.”

“In sport, victory is only achieved on the pitch. The result at FIFA demonstrates that such attempts to harm Israel have failed and will always fail. I am full of appreciation for the impressive and determined efforts by the professionals involved, and by the chairman of the Football Association, for the sake of Israeli football and for the State of Israel,” Rivlin stated.

Palestinians Furious at Rajoub

Following his failure, Rajoub came under heavy criticism on the Palestinian street. He released a statement Saturday in response to the criticism, saying, “The decision was made in coordination with the Arab associations and those who supported us, and out of concern of negative reactions from Israel.”

He claimed that the decision made at the FIFA Congress to form an internal committee to investigate Palestinian claims was an achievement “that can be counted on.”

His terrorist colleagues were not convinced. Dropping the bid to suspend Israel from FIFA was an “outrageous deviation from our values, principles and efforts to oust Israel from international organizations,” the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist organization stated Saturday.

Such behavior is a “slap to Palestinian sport,” the group continued, describing the dropping of the bid at the last moment as “an act of betrayal.”

“After this retreat, how can the Palestinians trust the Palestinian Authority to take Israel to the International Criminal Court or to end security cooperation?” a Hamas statement said. “[The move represents a] missed an opportunity to expose the crimes of the occupation before international organizations.”

US-mediated peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed early last year, and since then, the Palestinians have accelerated their campaigns to pressure Israel, pursuing the Jewish state at international forums.

By: AP and United with Israel Staff

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