Sepp Blatter is more inclined to have Israel and Palestine settle their soccer disputes on the pitch instead of making it political.
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FIFA President Sepp Blatter stated that he believes that the Israel Football Association has not violated any rules or regulations that would warrant suspending them from participation in FIFA or the World Cup – despite a bid by Palestine to have Israel removed from the federation – and instead, suggests a football match to resolve their differences.
According to the Jerusalem Post, Blatter made his stance clear when he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last Tuesday and said he will inform leaders of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Football Association of the same thing when he meets with them this coming Wednesday.
“We should not come to one federation saying we will exclude them,” Blatter said. “If the national association is fulfilling its obligations then there is no need to intervene. I’m on a mission for peace and not on a mission to force anybody to do something. The discussions that I will have with the Palestinians will evoke the messages I have obtained from Israel’s political authorities. What they do with this message is up to them. But I will try until the Congress begins to avoid such a situation [where a vote will be held]. Israel knows it and the Palestinians know it. It is not appropriate that in the Congress we say we shall suspend somebody.”
The FIFA Congress meets on May 29th and Palestine has proposed banning Israel from the federation over claims that Israel has hampered their soccer activities through travel restrictions on their athletes and imports of sports equipment. Israel has asserted that the measures are for security purposes and the Israel Football Association states it has no control over Israel’s security forces. A three-quarter majority of the 209 members are needed in order for the proposal to pass.
If they were suspended, Israel would no longer be able to participate in UEFA qualifiers and its individual clubs would be barred from European competition.
Blatter expressed his belief that he prefers to use soccer as a method of bringing nations closer together, not creating more division.
“Football is more than a game. It has the power to connect people and to construct bridges,” Blatter said. “I’m coming here and going to your neighbors to try and construct bridges and to try and make sure football is not dividing but that football is uniting”
Blatter instead proposed that Israel and Palestine settle their differences in a soccer game on neutral ground at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu is happy to organize a football match for peace between the national team of Israel and national team of Palestine and we would be happy to hold it in Zurich,” Blatter said.
Israel has not qualified for the FIFA World Cup since 1970 and Palestine has not qualified for the Cup since being admitted in 1998.