Netanyahu: Suspending Israel Could Cause FIFA to Collapse
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Thursday that acceding to the Palestinian demand to suspend Israel from FIFA threatened to unravel the international soccer organization.
In an interview with reporters in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu commented on Friday’s upcoming vote to oust Israel at the FIFA congress in Zurich, calling it a “blatant intrusion of politics into the field of sports.”
According to Netanyahu, who is also an avid soccer fan, “sport has become an arena of goodwill and cooperation between peoples, and because of that an attempt to attack Israel in FIFA will cause FIFA to collapse.”
The prime minister added that Israel was currently holding talks with the organization, but at this point it was impossible to know what decision it would take regarding the Israeli Football Association’s membership. Netanyahu said that if the decision to suspend Israel is accepted, “we will fight and condemn it.”
Netanyahu noted that he had conveyed this message to FIFA President Sepp Blatter.
Netanyahu made the comments against the backdrop of the relentless attack against Israel launched by the chairman of the Palestinian Football Association, Jibril Rajoub, who has pushed to have the Jewish state suspended from the world soccer body.
On Thursday, Rajoub claimed that, “despite the sincere intentions of Sepp Blatter, the Israeli Football Association has chosen to be an instrument of apartheid, rather than an instrument of peace.”
“To my great disappointment,” Rajoub continued, “the Israeli Football Association is loyal to the extreme political agenda of its government.”
In response to the Palestinian campaign, the Israeli delegation to FIFA is continuing its own efforts to prevent the passage of the Palestinian recommendation to suspend Israel.
However, this afternoon, the CEO of the Israel Football Association, Rotem Kamer, struck a pessimistic tone, telling Israel’s NRG news portal that despite the fact that the Israeli delegation “is working in a number of hotels with a number of [soccer] confederations, among them UEFA, to convince them to support our position,” there was a “lot of politics here, and to our regret, Israel’s position is not favorable.”
Kamer noted his disappointment that the Palestinians chose this particular forum to attack Israel, and “24 hours before the vote, despite all of our efforts to find a solution, the Palestinian proposal is still on the table. They are presenting us as an apartheid state.”
He added that there was a lot of political pressure, from Qatar and other Arab countries, to accept the Palestinian proposal.
“They have been indicating to Blatter that if he does not go along with them his position will also be in danger,” said Kamer.