Israel cites security concerns for restricting travel of Palestinian soccer players


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s sports minister defended her country’s travel restrictions on some Palestinian soccer players to the FIFA world soccer organization.

In a letter sent Tuesday to FIFA President Sepp Blatter, Limor Livnat said Israel would allow Palestinian athletes to “exit and enter for the purpose of sports, excluding occasions in which there are attempts to make use of sports in order to injure or threaten the security of our citizens,” Ynet reported.

As an example, Livnat cited the case of Sameh Maraabeh, a member of the Palestinian national team from the West Bank city of Kalkilya. Israeli security forces had detained Maraabeh earlier this year for meeting with a Hamas operative, during which he received money, a mobile phone and a written message while the team was training in Qatar.

The Palestinian Football Association has called on FIFA to suspend Israel’s membership in the group until it stops detaining Palestinian players. The association said earlier this week that its deputy general secretary, Mohammed Amassi, was prevented by Israel from traveling to Brazil for the World Cup.

Blatter visited Israel and the Palestinian Authority last month in an effort to solve the problem.

Israel’s letter was sent in advance of a meeting of the FIFA Congress in Brazil on Tuesday and Wednesday. The World Cup begins this week in the South American country.

Recommended from JTA