RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — The head of Palestinian football said Monday he will call for sanctions against the Israel Football Association at the annual FIFA Congress next month unless Israel lifts travel restrictions on some of his players and foreign visitors.
Jibril Rajoub, head of the Palestine Football Association, called Israel the "bully of the neighborhood," adding that "Palestinians believe bullying should not be accepted by FIFA."
Rajoub spoke in a joint news conference with visiting FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who is to raise the Palestinian complaints Tuesday in a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Blatter said he hopes a solution can be found ahead of the Congress, the top legislative arm of FIFA, the governing body of world football with 209 member associations.
"I think at the Congress we should try to be in the sporting spirit and not in the spirit of punishment," Blatter said. The Congress will be held June 10-11 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, just before the start of the World Cup.
An Israeli government official and a spokeswoman for the Israel Football Association declined comment Monday, saying they did not want to speak ahead of the Blatter-Netanyahu meeting.
Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem — areas the Palestinians want for a state — in the 1967 war. Over the years, Israel has imposed travel restrictions that make it increasingly difficult for Palestinians to move between or in and out of those territories.
Israel cites concerns about possible attacks by Palestinian militants as the main reason for restrictions on movement. Critics say those restrictions often amount to collective punishment, particularly in Gaza, where borders have been virtually sealed by Israel and Egypt in response to a takeover there by the Islamic militant Hamas.