06 October 2010
Michel Platini, the president of UEFA, soccer’s governing body in Europe, has reportedly threatened to exclude Israel from championships if the government in Jerusalem does not change its policies limiting the freedom of movement for Palestinian athletes. Reports in Arab media outlets say that Platini pledged to exert his influence in removing Israel from European competitions if it continues to refuse travel permits for members of the Palestinian national soccer team due to "security reasons." "We accepted Israel into Europe and it must abide by the laws and regulations which require freedom of movement for players. If Israel does not do this, it will bear the serious consequences and it is liable to be thrown out of Europe,” Platini is said to have told the chairman of the Palestinian Olympic Committee, Jibril Rajoub.
A UEFA spokesperson told the Israeli newspaper ‘Haaretz’ that the organization could neither confirm nor deny that the statements were made since it would not comment on private conversations held between two officials.
Sources in both UEFA and FIFA, the international governing body of soccer, said officials were angry by the difficulties that Israel imposes on athletes in the Palestinian Authority. Palestinian officials alleged that Israel routinely hinders the movement of Palestinian athletes, particularly those from the Gaza Strip. Israel denies the accusations. Guy Inbar, a Defense Ministry spokesman, told ‘Haaretz’ that Israel did not target athletes specifically, but sometimes raised concerns about individuals. An official from the Shin Bet security agency, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the newspaper that Israel had approved special travel permits for Palestinian football players in recent weeks.
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