Israel to Ease Movement for PA Olympic Hopefuls
Israeli and Palestinian Authority officials met this week at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, and agreed to take steps to ensure that PA Olympic hopefuls are able to train. IOC officials described the meeting as “constructive.”
Talks centered on relaxing restrictions on movement for Olympic hopefuls and their coaches.
PA Arabs can move freely within PA-controlled territory, but are allowed to enter Israel, or to move between Gaza and other PA regions, only with permits. In addition, PA Arabs living in Gaza were barred following the Hamas takeover in 2007 from leaving the area except in cases of humanitarian need, although that restriction has since been lifted by Egypt.
Approximately 70% of PA athletes belong to the PA or Hamas armed forces, making them subject to additional scrutiny when they seek to travel.
Israeli officials agreed to present a plan to ease movement for athletes. In addition, the Israeli and PA delegates agreed to set up a hotline, allowing them to hold an ongoing discussion over athletes' needs.
PA athletes also face difficulty due to a lack of funding. The PA's 2008 Olympic swimmers were authorized to travel in Jerusalem and use an Olympic-size swimming pool, but could not afford to do so.
This week's meeting followed a similar gathering in January. Further meetings were scheduled to continue discussion, and will take place in Ramallah and Tel Aviv.