Photo: FIFA Website
Blatter and Ofer Eini.
Photo: FIFA Website

Officials scramble to prevent FIFA vote to oust Israel

Down to the wire: Foreign ministry says they are preparing for the worst in an impending vote in FIFA's congress.

After a dramatic day of meetings Thursday between Ofer Eini, President of the Israeli Football Association, Jibril Rajoub, head of the Palestinian Football Association, and FIFA President Sepp Blatter, Israeli government officials said that there was no guessing if FIFA's congress would vote to expel Israel from international soccer.



"We are preparing for a vote even though this is a very bad development," said an official in the Foreign Ministry. "We will do everything until the last moment to prevent any vote, but we are preparing for the vote as well."


Prime Minister Netanyahu with FIFA President Sepp Blatter. (Photo: GPO) (Photo: GPO)
Prime Minister Netanyahu with FIFA President Sepp Blatter. (Photo: GPO)


Blatter met with both Palestinian and Israeli soccer officials Thursday while Eini and Rajoub were in contact behind the scenes. Talks are expected to continue Friday morning in an attempt to find an alternative to the FIFA vote.


Blatter has repeatedly expressed opposition to the impending vote, and called Israeli attempts at addressing Palestinian concerns "constructive". Rajoub however, ridiculed Blatter and didn't say that he would accept Israeli concessions, according to sources in the Israeli delegation to the FIFA congress in Zurich.


The same sources said that Rajoub included a personal demand as well - that the Israeli association expel five teams based in the West Bank. The Israeli delegation voiced strong opposition on the grounds that the issue was a matter of principle designed to tarnish the settlements. Rajoub responded with a threat to bring the fate of these teams before UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Blatter agreed with Rajoub on this specific subject.


Blatter with Israel Football Association President Ofer Eini. (Photo: Ohan Zoigenberg) (Photo: Ohan Zoigenberg)
Blatter with Israel Football Association President Ofer Eini. (Photo: Ohan Zoigenberg)


"We still don't know if there will be a vote on the Palestinian proposal and what the result will be because it involves a lot of politics," said senior sources in the foreign ministry.


Jerusalem fears that a current corruption scandal within the ranks of FIFA and an impending Presidential vote that could conceivably replace Blatter, might, in the end, lead to a vote on ousting Israel from the organization. In his bid for re-election, Blatter may require a substantial number of votes from the World's Arab nations due to possible opposition from the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). Blatter could call the Palestinian proposal to a vote in order to appease the Arab states.


Help from Germany

Israel, however, is not alone in the fight to prevent Friday's vote, due sometime in the late morning or early afternoon hours. The President of the German Football Association has entered the ring on Israel's side behind the scenes and according to the Foreign Ministry, "The Germans are working hard."


Protesters in Zurich call for Israel's suspension from FIFA. (Photo: AFP) (Photo: AFP)
Protesters in Zurich call for Israel's suspension from FIFA. (Photo: AFP)


"We can find solutions to the problems that the Palestinians have raised and the question is if there is a desire politically to reach a compromise and that's affected first and foremost by FIFA's presidential elections. Rajoub said that he's leaving the proposal on the agenda. We hope that Blatter will show leadership and at the last moment write a compromise that will prevent Israel's suspension."


The Israeli delegation consists of three diplomats and lawyers sent by the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem. They are assisting the regular delegation from the Israeli Football Association in the arenas of politics and the law. "There are several ladders that we're trying to give Blatter that will help the Palestinians come down from this tall tree," said sources in the delegation.


Dozens of Palestinians participated in demonstrations Thursday, calling for Israel's suspension from FIFA. In Ramallah and Hebron, protesters voiced support for Rajoub and waved red cards bearing the text, "No to racism".



פרסום ראשון: 05.29.15, 09:39
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