Israel Fears FIFA Soccer Scandal Could Help Palestinian Push
Rotem Kamer, chief executive of the Israel Football Association, told Israel’s Walla news website on Thursday that Israeli representatives were lobbying several soccer confederations, including UEFA, in Zurich hotels before an expected ballot on the issue at FIFA Congress on Friday.
“Undoubtedly there is a lot of politics going on here, and unfortunately Israel’s position is not great,” he said. “We are being portrayed as an apartheid state.”
Kamer said the confluence of a re-election bid by FIFA President Sepp Blatter and the arrest of seven senior figures in the organization on U.S. corruption charges was not helping Israel.
“There is no way of knowing which way the vote will go when Blatter is seeking re-election. There is no doubt that he can be pressured, also because of the affair that has just exploded,” Kamer said.
“He needs the Arab votes and it could be that to this end, Israel will have to be sacrificed.”
Proposing Israel’s suspension, the Palestine Football Association (PFA) has accused it of hampering its soccer activity in the occupied West Bank by imposing travel restrictions on its athletes and overseas visitors.
Israel cites security concerns for the restrictions and has proposed procedures to ease travel for athletes and sporting officials.
The Palestinian organization also complains of racism in the Israeli game and that teams from Jewish settlements in the West Bank play in the Israeli leagues.
Most countries view those settlements, built on land Israel captured in a 1967 war and which Palestinians seek for a state, as illegal.
Blatter visited Israel and the West Bank this month but failed to find a compromise that would head off the PFA’s call for a vote. If Israel was suspended, its clubs and teams would be unable to take part in international competitions such as the Champions League and Euro 2016 competition.
The Palestinian complaints are long-standing, with the PFA having put them on the agenda of FIFA meetings in 2013 and 2014. Last-minute compromises were found in the past to prevent the issue coming to a vote.
FIFA has said a vote on Blatter’s election to a fifth term will go ahead as planned on Friday.