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Israel soccer gets temporary reprieve from Fifa

  • 1-Milner Jack
The question of whether Israel should be banished from the world soccer body Fifa or not, became a side show last week when the organisation was turned upside down by the allegations of bribery and money laundering by its senior officials.
by JACK MILNER | Jun 03, 2015

The news then came on Tuesday evening that newly-elected president Sepp Blatter -  re-elected for a fifth time - had finally agreed to step down.

But last Friday, 163 Fifa members voted at the body’s AGM in Switzerland, in favour of the Palestinian amendment to the motion (with nine against and 37 abstaining). While the headlines focused on the shelving of a resolution that would have suspended Israel, more realistic commentators have suggested that anybody celebrating an Israeli victory shouldn’t overdo it.

The Palestinian soccer body at the meeting withdrew its demand that Israel be suspended, but warned that it wasn’t the end of the story.

Politics, something Blatter claimed he tried so hard to keep out of Fifa, was probably what gave Palestinian Soccer Federation boss Jabril Rajoub a change of heart. A Palestinian insistence that Fifa vote for Israel’s suspension, would have ended in failure. They needed a 75 per cent majority, which they would not have got. The new watered down proposal was a compromise to which most countries agreed.

Michel Platini of Uefa, the European soccer body, was believed to be working hard to get the old motion withdrawn. Some reports say that Tokyo Sexwale figured prominently in the decision and that Rajoub explicitly mentioned Sexwale as having played a critical role in his decision to withdraw the motion to have Israel expelled.

In the end, the way the Palestinian soccer boss saw it, was that the predicted defeat of the motion would have given a stamp of approval to Israel’s so-called “violations”.

But eventually, 167 delegates voted for the amendment that passed: “Restrictions of Palestinian rights for the freedom of movement. Players and football officials both within and outside the borders of the occupied State of Palestine, have been systematically restricted from their right to free movement, and continue to be hindered, limited, and obstructed by a set of unilateral regulations arbitrarily and inconsistently implemented.

“This constitutes a direct violation by IFA of Article 13.3 of the Fifa Statute, specifically in relation to Article 13.1(i) and its correspond[ing] articles in Uefa rules.”

Fifa has now appointed the equivalent of a probation officer for Israel and has chosen Sexwale to head the monitoring committee that will deal with Palestinian grievances. The establishment of the committee will enable the Palestinians to continue to pester Fifa and it puts Rajoub under the loupe of social-media activists who will demand proof that a corrupt Fifa hasn’t bought him off.

According to Ha’aretz, the monitoring committee leaves Israel in a state of constant tension. Any expression of racism on the Israeli soccer field and the delaying of a soccer player at the Allenby crossing, would be grounds for deliberations and possible punishment of Israel.

Alas, Israel is not off the hook. 

 

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