The corruption allegations rocking the annual congress of soccer's governing authority not only affect the odds of Sepp Blatter being re-elected FIFA president for a fifth term. They also may enhance the chances that Israel, affiliated with FIFA since the pre-state times of 1929, will suffer the ignominy of suspension by the world body.
The Palestinian Football Association, a member of FIFA since 1998, has put forward a motion to suspend Israel for alleged breaches of FIFA's code of conduct. The PFA has complained that Israeli security forces unreasonably and sometimes violently prevent Palestinian players from travelling to and from games; that unchecked racist acts are conducted by and around some Israeli club teams; and that five Israeli teams are based in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The motion for suspension is to be put to a vote Friday.
"Unfortunately, Israel's position is not great," Rotem Kamer, chief executive of the Israel Football Association, told Israel's Walla news website on Thursday. "We are being portrayed as an apartheid state."
(South Africa was the first of only two countries ever to be suspended by FIFA. The censure came in the 1960s at the height of that country's apartheid policies.)
Israeli representatives have been busy lobbying several soccer groups, including UEFA, the European governing body, but the combination of Mr. Blatter's re-election bid and the arrest of several FIFA officials was not helping Israel.
"There is no way of knowing which way the vote will go when Blatter is seeking re-election," Mr. Kamer said. "There is no doubt that he can be pressured."
"He needs the Arab votes and it could be that, to this end, Israel will have to be sacrificed."
The front page of Israel's popular Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper warned Thursday that under the current circumstance bribery can't be ruled out. "Qatar will pay for a vote against Israel," the paper predicted.
Palestinians worry that the corruption charges might have the opposite effect. With FIFA already shaken by one scandal, its members may want to avoid being roiled by another. And since Israel will not suffer defeat easily, it might be better, voters may well think, to avoid accusations of anti-Semitism that would follow a suspension of Israel.
Already, UEFA, with a formidable 54 votes in the 209-member body, has said it will vote against the Palestinian motion. Israel has been affiliated with UEFA since 1994, having been expelled 20 years earlier by the Asian Football Confederation, in which it had played for two decades.
While some European states, angered by the bribery scandal, pushed for a boycott of the FIFA meeting, UEFA elected to participate in the congress, in part because its absence would likely have meant the sure passage of the motion to suspend Israel.
Wary of such support for Israel, PFA president Jibril Rajoub, has emphasized in his lobbying efforts that the Palestinians would be happy to drop the motion if Israel would play by FIFA's rules.
"We remain open until the last moment," said Mr. Rajoub, who met with Mr. Blatter on Wednesday.
"We're talking about the most basic rights," he told reporters. "We demand that they allow us to play soccer, and let us act freely with regard to sports, and ask that FIFA supervise that."
"Moreover," he added, "we want FIFA to investigate the Israeli violations against Palestinian athletes and that Israel stop operating sports clubs on occupied Palestinian lands. If Israel does not agree to all this, then the vote on expelling the Israeli team will take place [Friday]."
"We're not against the sport," Mr. Rajoub added, "but we are against racist policies that discriminate. The Israeli soccer association must stop acting like the executor of Likud policy."
In an effort to avert the vote, Mr. Blatter visited Israel and Palestine last week but failed to find a compromise that would satisfy both parties.
"Negotiations are still going on, but they are very complicated," said a senior FIFA official. "There may not be a solution until the final hours."
If Israel is suspended, its clubs and teams would be barred from participating in international competition such as the Champions League, UEFA Cup and European championships.
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely urged FIFA to cancel the vote.
"I call on the FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, to immediately reject the Palestinian request to suspend Israel," she said. "The discussion of the request is deeply hypocritical for an organization suspected of corruption, and particularly when it comes during the election of a president, which is likely to greatly influence the Palestinian request."