The presidents of both the Israeli and Palestinian Football Associations have shaken hands at FIFA’s Congress after the Palestinians withdrew their bid to call a vote to ban Israel from FIFA.
Speaking at FIFA’s Congress on Friday afternoon, Jabril Rajoub, head of the Palestinian FA, announced they were withdrawing their bid to call a vote on banning Israel from FIFA, but did say he wanted to see the creation of a committee to ensure his requests are met concerning Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian soccer association.
Following Rajoub’s announcement, Ofer Eini, President of the Israeli FA, took to the stage, saying: “First of all, I am delighted that the president of the PFA has withdrawn the proposal. I don’t want to point any fingers, I think football must serve as a bridge to peace – that’s what we all want.
“I’m saying to my friend [Rajoub], let’s leave it to the politicians to deal with politics. I said to you in person and I’m saying it here, I want us to work together, to cooperate, to hug each other. The differences we have should be resolved by listening to each other, hearing each other. Everyone here [at FIFA] sits as friends, there are always differences of opinions but if we speak, we can resolve them.
“I hope we can cooperate and that it will be the beginning of a process that will lead to a peace between our people. Football is a uniting element, not a divisive one
“I hope one day after this Congress we can sit together and in the future we can tell FIFA we know how to work together.
“There’s one thing I disagree in person – we must not involve politics in football. Let us shake hands here in front of everyone and say we’re launching a new road.”
FIFA’s members then voted in favour of the creation of a committee, which will comprise of international observers, which will monitor the points put forward by the Palestinians – which led to both men then shaking hands.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter said: “This has been an issue for the past two FIFA Congresses and I’m so happy that we’re coming to a solution. I’m sure both sides will apply the basic principle of FIFA which is solidarity, it is up to Israel to help and share a little bit more with Palestine.”
Jewish Leadership Council CEO Simon Johnson released a statement following the announcement, which said: “I welcome the decision of the Palestinian Football Association to withdraw its vindictive and politically motivated proposal to suspend the Israel Football Association from world football.
“As a result, the FIFA Congress will not be required to vote on this matter. I call on FIFA to amend its statutes so that it is never again possible for one football association to threaten the suspension of another for political reasons and for such a proposal to go on the Agenda of the FIFA Congress as soon as possible.
“Football is about unity and peace and my call on FIFA aims to ensure this remains the case.”
Before the Palestinian u-turn, Tim Farron MP, Liberal Democrat Leadership Candidate had said: “Expelling Israel would be a ridiculous and unacceptable move. An organisation which is widely seen as corrupt and which handed the World Cup to Russia and Qatar without regard for human rights, would be guilty of the most appalling hypocrisy were it now to exclude Israel from membership. With FIFA’s reputation in tatters, as it is, it needs to concentrate on restoring trust, not exporting conflict.”
His words were echoed by LDFI Chairman, Gavin Stollar, who added: “I fully endorse Tim Farron’s comments. We need strong, unequivocal voices in the UK on BDS. This is an issue Liberal Democrats have been steadfast in opposing.”