Israel is facing a possible suspension from FIFA, the world’s governing football authority, after allegations that it discriminates against Palestinian footballers in the occupied territories. Jibril Rajoub, the head of the Palestinian Football Association (PFA), said on Tuesday that the association would push through a vote next week at the FIFA Congress in Zurich, which could see Israel suspended from the games.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter also proposed a “peace match” on Tuesday between the two national teams shortly after meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“One item I can tell you that I spoke about with [Netanyahu] … to arrange a match for peace between the national teams of Israel and Palestine and FIFA would be happy to organize it,” Blatter said, according to Reuters. Blatter's proposal comes ahead of his meeting with Rajoub on Wednesday.
Blatter has previously voiced his opposition to Palestine's move, calling it “inappropriate” and an abuse of official statutes. However, he admitted that he had no authority to stop the motion from coming to a vote. It would require a two-thirds majority from the organization’s 209 members to come into effect.
“This is a very unusual and very serious matter,” Blatter said, according to the Guardian. “After meeting in Zurich with the two presidents of the associations concerned, I took the decision that I wanted to meet not just with the football but with the political authorities in both of the countries. Today was first step.”
The issue was raised in the congress last June, shortly after an incident where two teenage Palestinian footballers were shot by Israeli security forces. The PFA’s offices were also allegedly raided by Israeli troops last November.
The proposal, which will be put to a vote on May 29, alleges that Israel’s occupation prevents the PFA from functioning independently, restricting its players’ movements between the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank. Palestine has also complained that FIFA's policy discriminates against its players and that Israel’s five football teams are based in illegal settlements.
Rajoub warned that if the congress failed to pass the proposal, the PFA would further escalate the matter to the sport’s official court of arbitration.
“I think there is almost a consensus amongst member associations against racism, against the five clubs from the settlements and for our right to have free movement and access,” he said, according to the Guardian.
“The whole congress should raise the red card. We have discussed with everyone and no one has said our demands are irrational or illegal,” he added.
Palestine’s move to take the conflict to FIFA’s governing body is seen as part of a wider effort to challenge Israel through legal and official mechanisms. Earlier, the country has pushed for official statehood before the U.N. Security Council and called for an investigation by the International Criminal Court into alleged Israeli war crimes.