Israel blames Palestinians for cancellation of Jerusalem friendly against Argentina
Israel on Wednesday blamed Palestinian pressure for Argentina's cancellation of its World Cup warmup against Israel, a match that had been set for contested Jerusalem.
The Palestinians accused Israel of using the fixture and the participation of Barcelona ace Lionel Messi to underpin its disputed claim to Jerusalem, which US President Donald Trump recognised last year as Israel's capital in a break from international consensus.
Messi and his team-mates were due to face Israel on Saturday in their final warm-up match before heading to Russia for the World Cup.
However multiple reports in Argentina on Tuesday said the game had either already been scrapped or was soon to be.
Palestinians are outraged at US President Donald Trump's decision last December to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, breaking with decades of policy, and move his country's embassy there.
The embassy opened on May 14, fanning Palestinian anger and intensifying protests on the Gaza border, with Israeli forces killing dozens at least 61 Gazans that day.
Palestinians claim the eastern part of Jerusalem, annexed by Israel, as the capital of their future state. The Jewish state considers the entire city its own "indivisible" capital.
On Sunday, Palestinian football boss Jibril Rajoub urged Messi not to play in an Argentina-Israel game in Jerusalem and urged fans to burn their shirts if he does.
At a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Rajoub told journalists he had written to Argentina's government asking that Messi not take part in the June 9 friendly.
"This match has become a political tool," Rajoub said in Arabic.
"The Israeli government is trying to give it political significance by insisting it be held in Jerusalem."
"Messi is a symbol of peace and love," Rajoub said. "We ask him not to participate in laundering the crimes of the occupation."
Messi, he added, "has tens of millions of fans in the Arab and Muslim countries... we ask everyone to burn their shirts which bear his name and posters (with his image)."