The Palestinian Football Association withdrew Friday its bid to have Israel expelled from FIFA, its leader announced. The world soccer federation's member associations were set to vote on the proposal at the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich, Switzerland.
Jibril Rajoub, the PFA’s president, announced the withdrawal of the expulsion measure in an address to the FIFA Congress, but asked the body instead to vote on an amendment to address three pressing issues: restrictions on the movement of Palestinian soccer players, the inclusion of five Israeli teams that play in the occupied West Bank and the failure to curb rampant racism amongst Israeli fans.
“I look forward to the day in which Palestinians, like many others, are enjoying the benefits of the game. Let us look forward and be optimistic. I count on you to vote, and I thank those who convinced me to drop the suspension,” Rajoub said, according to the Guardian.
Instead of an amendment, FIFA President Sepp Blatter asked the congress to vote on the formation of a committee to mediate the conflict. That move passed with a 90 percent vote.
Rajoub also called on FIFA to submit its grievance over Israel’s West Bank soccer teams to the United Nations, the New York Times reports. When Rajoub left the podium, Ofer Eini, president of the Israel Association, announced his opposition to bringing the U.N. into it.
“We must not involve politics in football. Any dispute we have inside FIFA must be solved inside FIFA,” he said, as quoted by the New York Times’ Sam Borden.
Prior to Rajoub’s address, a group of Palestinian protesters attempted to storm the FIFA Congress. A day earlier, a pair of hecklers interrupted Blatter’s opening statement.
This is the third time the PFA has submitted a measure aimed at Israel’s removal from soccer’s international governing body, only to drop it before it could come to a vote. Blatter was against the measure coming to a vote and lobbied ahead of Friday’s meeting to drop it, the Times of Israel reported.
It’s unclear how many of FIFA’s 209 member associations would have had to approve the measure for it to pass. Various reports ahead of the FIFA Congress said three-fourths of delegates would have to vote in favor, but the Palestinians said they only needed a simple majority, the Guardian reports.