(WFI) Sepp Blatter was late for an landmark IOC meeting in Monaco because he was holding talks with the new president of the Israel FA in Zurich amid calls from the Palestine FA to sanction the federation following a raid on its HQ.
The FIFA president was a conspicuous absence from the Monday morning voting on a wave of important IOC reforms designed to shake-up the Olympic Movement. The 78-year-old Swiss IOC member was not on the excused list but joined the afternoon session. FIFA later told INSIDER that the federation “had informed the IOC accordingly”.
Blatter’s meeting with Ofer Eini, who became president of the Israeli federation in August, comes at a time when relations between the Israeli and Palestine football federations have again hit rock bottom.
The FIFA chief is attempting to repair relations between the feuding federations ahead of the FIFA ExCo meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco next week.
FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fischer denied Blatter was involved in crisis talks with the Israeli FA, telling INSIDER it was an introductory meeting. Eini met UEFA president Michel Platini in Nyon late last month.
Palestine Football Association president Jibril Al Rajoub last week called for FIFA to show Israel “the red card” after Israeli soldiers raided the federation’s headquarters. He urged Blatter to sanction the Israeli FA with heavy penalties, saying he would discuss the crisis with the Swiss on the sidelines of the FIFA ExCo meeting on Dec. 17.
Al Rajoub described the raid on the federation’s headquarters in Jerusalem as “a disgrace for everybody”.
“It is time now to take sanctions and to raise the red card to those who think that through aggressions, through racist acts they could achieve,” he was quoted by Reuters.
Blatter and Asian football boss Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa immediately condemned the attack.
“FIFA president Blatter was very sad to learn about an incident involving Israeli army force that happened yesterday at the headquarters of the PFA,” FIFA said in a statement. “FIFA is committed to continuing its efforts to facilitate the relationship between the PFA and the Israel FA.”
Salman denounced the Israeli army’s raid as “intolerable and unacceptable”.
The Israeli authorities defended the action by claiming the soldiers had searched the PFA’s headquarters because officials questioned outside the building were not able to show their identification documents. The Palestine News Agency Jerusalem said the Israeli army searched the building and assaulted some employees.
FIFA officials have tried and failed to improve relations between the Palestine FA and Israeli FA over the 18 months.
World football’s governing body has urged the Israeli government on a number of occasions to ease restrictions on the movement of Palestinian football players and officials.
A FIFA task force was established in 2013. But amid ongoing tensions between Israel and Palestine it failed to achieve the goal of striking a Memorandum of Understanding between the two national federations.
At the FIFA Congress in June, Israel escaped FIFA sanctions after its football federation and the Palestinian FA agreed to advance diplomatic talks aimed at improving the freedom of movement of Palestinian players. But Palestinian FA chief Rajoub said the FIFA task had not worked, and that the state’s football players and officials faced ongoing challenges in moving between Palestine and Israel.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter noted at the congress that the political problems had existed between Palestine and Israel for over 50 years, conceding “we could not expect a FIFA delegation to resolve in 11 months”.
While the work of the FIFA task force finished, an independent committee was formed to supervise the progress of the relationship between the Israeli and Palestine FAs.
A report is due to be presented to the FIFA ExCo in December.
By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson
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