Israeli embassy confirms cancellation of Argentina friendly in Jerusalem
07 June, 2018, 09:06 | Author: Greg Wolfe
The encounter was called off on Tuesday after a campaign by the Palestinians following its relocation to Jerusalem. Rotem Kamer, vice-president of the Israeli Football Association, accused the Palestinian FA of "football terror" after its leader called for protests against Argentina in the build up to the game, which had been scheduled for Saturday. "We are seeing it as crossing a red line and we can not accept it".
The sold-out game in Jerusalem was hotly opposed by Palestinians, who claim the eastern part of the city, occupied and later annexed by Israel, as the capital of their future state.
Israel was eagerly awaiting the sold-out global friendly scheduled for Saturday night at Jerusalem's Teddy Kollek Stadium and the arrival of some of the world's best players.
The status of the holy city has come even more sharply into focus since US President Donald Trump recognised it as Israel's capital. "This game will be used by Israel to cover the massacre against the Palestinian people, in order to reaffirm Jerusalem as their capital, in violation of worldwide law".
The two sides were due to meet on Saturday at the Teddy Kollek stadium in the Israeli city ahead of Jorge Sampaoli's team heading to Russian Federation for the World Cup. "We felt that it wasn't right to go".
In announcing the decision, Claudio Tapia, president of the Argentine Football Association, apologized for canceling the match but said that the safety of the players was at stake.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Argentine President Mauricio Macri and urged him to intervene, but to no avail, on Tuesday.
Netanyahu is now visiting Europe and his office could not immediately confirm the reports.
Israeli daily Yisrael Hayom, considered close to Netanyahu, expressed ire with its front-page headline: "They surrendered to terrorism: The game against Argentina has been cancelled". And Israel's sports ministry said a "negotiation" about the match was underway, perhaps in hopes of salvaging it, but gave no further details. Argentina is one of the most popular national teams among Israelis and fans had been scrambling to get a chance to see Messi in person.
The US shifted its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem in May on the 70th anniversary of the creation of Israel in a move met with condemnation from the Palestinians.
Israel's ambassador to Argentina, Ilan Sztulman, retweeted a message from Hamas, the militant group that rules Gaza, thanking Argentina for the cancellation.
Susan Shalabi, the deputy director of the Palestinian Football Association, told Arab News that the PFA had contacted all world sports federations to inform them that Argentina was being used by Israel for political purposes.
Threats were also made against the Argentinian team as they trained at a facility in Barcelona, Spain, ESPN reports.
"From a sporting point of view, I would have preferred to play in Barcelona", Sampaoli said.
Rajoub's gambit was another facet of the Palestinian Authority's escalating efforts to isolate and delegitimize Israel in bodies like the UN Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court-politicizing organizations that could theoretically serve a noble objective if they weren't so consumed with anti-Israel animus. The football match was to take place just days before the start of World Cup championship action in Russian Federation.
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