Livnat: Israeli travel restriction on Palestinian soccer players due to security concerns

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s sports minister defended Israel’s travel restrictions on some Palestinian soccer players in a letter to the president of the FIFA world soccer organization.

Sports Minister Limor Livnat said in a letter sent Tuesday to Sepp Blatter ahead of a meeting of the FIFA Congress in Brazil on Tuesday and Wednesday that 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.

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She said by way of example that Palestinian national team player Sameh Maraabeh of Kalkilya in the West Bank was detained by Israeli security forces earlier this year for meeting with a Hamas operative, during which he received money and 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.