JERUSALEM: Israel lashed out Wednesday at Argentina’s national football team over the cancellation of a pre-World Cup friendly in Jerusalem, as Palestinians celebrated the decision after protesting the game.
The Israeli embassy in Argentina on Tuesday announced the “suspension” of Saturday’s match with its national team, citing what it called “threats and provocations” against Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi.
The sold-out game in Jerusalem was hotly opposed by Palestinians, who claim the eastern part of the city, annexed by Israel, as the capital of their future state.
The status of the holy city has come even more sharply into focus since US President Donald Trump recognised it as Israel’s capital. Israel considers Jerusalem its “indivisible” capital.
“It’s a shame that Argentina’s footballing nobility did not withstand the pressure from Israeli-hating inciters,” Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman wrote on Twitter Wednesday.
He said the sole aim of opponents of the Jerusalem game was “to strike at our basic right to self-defence and to bring about the destruction of Israel”.
The Palestinian Football Federation — which had urged Messi not to take part — welcomed the scrapping of the game, insisting sport should not “be a tool for politicians and for political extortion”.
Israeli media said that late Tuesday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Argentine President Mauricio Macri, with whom he has good relations, in an effort to save the match but that Macri had said he was unable to intervene.
Netanyahu is currently visiting Europe and his office could not immediately confirm the reports.
Israeli daily Yisrael Hayom, considered close to Netanyahu, expressed with its front-page headline: “They surrendered to terrorism: The game against Argentina has been cancelled.”—AFP