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May 29, 2015 9:59 am

Palestinian Soccer League Withdraws Bid to Suspend Israel From FIFA

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The heads of the Palestinian and Israeli soccer associations, Jibril Rajoub (R) and Ofer Eini, shake hands after the Palestinians withdrew a bid to suspend Israel from FIFA. Photo: Courtesy.

The head of Israel’s soccer association called on his Palestinian counterpart to “join forces,” as the Palestinian Football Association withdrew its bid on Friday to have Israel suspended from FIFA.

“Let’s leave it to the politicians to do politics,” said Israel Football Association chief Ofer Eini, moments after PFA Chairman Jibril Rajoub announced that his group had withdrawn the proposal.

After his remarks, Eini shook hands with the Palestinian soccer chief.

Rajoub thanked “those” who convinced him to drop the proposal, according to live updates from the FIFA congress in Zurich on Friday, on The Guardian.

The vote, however, still went ahead as planned, with 90% voting to keep Israel in the world soccer association.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu weighed in on the issue, commending Israeli diplomats for successful efforts to derail the Palestinian initiative.

“Our international effort has proven itself and led to the failure of the Palestinian Authority attempt to oust us from FIFA,” he said.

The prime minister compared the Palestinian soccer association’s efforts at FIFA, to the Palestinian Authority’s push for unilateral state recognition in other international fora, such as the United Nations and the International Criminal Court.

“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,” he said.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin congratulated the head of Israel’s soccer association for his efforts.

“I congratulated [Eini] on the fitting and proper result, in a difficult situation, that could have finished entirely different,” he said.

“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,” said Rivlin.

The Palestinians had insisted up until the very last minute on Friday that they would push ahead with the vote, despite pressure from Israel to drop the bid.

Netanyahu on Thursday had said that suspending Israel would ruin FIFA and world sport.

Earlier this month, FIFA president Sepp Blatter suggested the two sides hold a “peace match,” which the Palestinian league rejected at the time.

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