FIFA President Sepp Blatter is confident the Palestinian Football Association will be forced to drop its proposal to suspend Israel from international football after holding talks with Benjamin Netanyahu.
Blatter, who described the situation as “very unusual and very serious”, met Netanyahu and Israeli FA chairman Ofer Eini in Jerusalem on Tuesday, after which he said he was hopeful of reaching a mutually beneficial agreement between both Football Associations which would stop the motion being voted on at FIFA’s Congress on 29 May.
He said: “I’ve obtained a message which I will present to the Palestinian FA and Palestinian politicians as part of my mission. I remain confident that we will find a solution for the benefit of football development. We should go into a peace situation, not into a fighting situation. Football shall connect and not divide people. I am very happy about what Prime Minister Netanyahu has said. We will find a solution.”
Netanyahu said any attempt to politicise sport should be stopped and told Blatter Israel would look into measures “which would help the situation.” He said: “You politicise it for Israel then you politicise it for everyone and that will cause the deterioration of a great institution. We’re helping Palestinian football and we’re going to discuss measures we think would further help the situation.”
Simon Johnson, who was director of corporate affairs at the English FA and in charge of England’s bid for the 2018 World Cup, said the Palestinian push to have Israel banned from international football is politically minded.
He told Jewish News: “Despite Mr Blatter’s attempts, there’s a good possibility it will go to a vote. It depends whether national FAs vote politically or on football terms, but I would be very surprised if it gets voted in.”
Johnson also confirmed Daniel Taub, Israel’s ambassador to Britain, has written to the four chief executives of the English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland FAs.
Blatter also revealed plans for staging a ‘peace match’ between the two countries, saying: “I spoke about it with Netanyahu and FIFA would be happy to organise it. He said he would be there and would shake hands with everybody.”