Israel has made a grave mistake in not openly criticizing the Palestinian Authority (PA) for its sports programs, Culture Minister Miri Regev (Likud) stated Wednesday, which names the events after terrorists and uses them as a platform for terrorism.
The refusal to openly address the phenomenon has put Israel in the defensive, rather than offensive, position when it comes to PA boycott attempts, Regev explained, days after the PA attempted to get Israel booted from world soccer organization FIFA through Palestinian Football Association leader Jibril Rajoub.
"It's no secret Rajoub did not want to talk to us about the substantive issue of sport," Regev stated in a special interview with Arutz Sheva. "[The PA] uses sport as a political tool and I do not intend to mix sports and politics."
"Rajoub has named a few issues and we will take care of them," she added. "I have no intention of harming Palestinian athletes, but I do have to make sure that Palestinian athletics will not help terrorism."
Regev was also asked about rumors surfacing that Rajoub's next target is to boot Israel from the Olympics, following an uneasy compromise reached during last week's FIFA Congress.
She sees a "double achievement", as she put it, from the compromise because the ban from FIFA was not only prevented – so was a proposal to involve the UN in an inquiry over five Jewish soccer teams in Judea and Samaria.
Following such success, she explained, she has set up a committee to prepare for the possibility of a boycott attempt from the Olympics, and instructed them to prepare as much as possible by studying the International Olympic Committee (IOC)'s bylaws.
"I call on the Palestinians not to use sport as a political tool," she said. "It will not solve the problem of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through sport, which is meant to build bridges between people."
"Therefore, I say that we act specifically not against Palestinian athletes, but to prevent them from allowing to support sport-sponsored terrorism."
Regev noted that such moves could have been prevented in the first place had Israel been more vocal over the way the PA cynically uses sports for its agenda.
"We made a mistake and should, as any political issue in Israel, work on it until they realize that there is a real handshake here and a genuine sports atmosphere without mixing sports and politics."
"I and Rajoub will sit together and address issues regarding Palestinian athletes, their transfer from place to place, and who will be waiting at the checkpoints, but it will be put into practice only as long as it is understood that they are not going to serve as emissaries of a terrorist organization or another."