JERUSALEM (Reuters) - FIFA chief Sepp Blatter, visiting the Middle East to try to persuade the Palestine FA (PFA) to drop a proposal to suspend Israel from the world body, on Tuesday proposed a peace match between their national teams.
Blatter appeared at a news conference in Jerusalem after meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and said he was “on a mission of peace”. He meets Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestine FA chief Jibril Rajoub on Wednesday.
The PFA accuses Israel of hampering its activities and restricting the movement of players between the Gaza Strip and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Israel cites security concerns for the restrictions it imposes.
Although Blatter declined to detail what was said in his meeting with Netanyahu and Israeli FA chairman Ofer Eini concerning the Palestinian agenda item at the FIFA Congress on May 29, he said he could reveal his plan for a “peace match”.
“One item I can tell you that I spoke about with (Netanyahu)... to arrange a match for peace between the national teams of Israel and Palestine and FIFA would be happy to organize it,” Blatter said.
He added that Netanyahu promised he would attend such a fixture but, with enmities between Israelis and Palestinians running high, it is hard to envision such a match taking place in the foreseeable future.
The PFA has also cited curbs Israel places on the import into the Palestinian territories of sports equipment, visits by foreign teams and individuals and protests Israel’s inclusion of teams from settlements in the occupied West Bank in its leagues.
FIFA has been trying to find a solution to the Palestinian
complaints for more than two years and Rajoub has so far stood firm, insisting the proposal to suspend Israel is put to a vote.
Swiss Blatter told reporters in Jerusalem he did not have the power to remove the item from the agenda and described it as “a very unusual and very serious matter.”
If FIFA were to suspend Israel, it would bar all its teams
and clubs from competing in international competitions such as
the Champions League and Euro 2016 qualifiers.
Israel is a member of European soccer’s governing body UEFA and Palestine is part of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Ken Ferris