Israeli football fans will be able to fly directly to Qatar to attend the World Cup despite the nations having no formal relations.
FIFA has announced that direct charter flights from Tel Aviv to Doha will be operated by an airline with existing landing rights in Qatar. The flights will be temporarily operated between Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv and Hamad International Airport in Doha for the duration of the World Cup.
Like most Muslim and Arab countries, Qatar has no formal relations with Israel but for several years Israeli athletes have been allowed to compete in sporting tournaments in Doha.
The football governing body said it met with representatives from “FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 LLC (Q22),” the operational arm for tournament delivery which includes the Qatari authorities, and from Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Culture and Sport to finalise plans that will enable Israelis and Palestinians to attend matches at the tournament which gets under way on November 20.
Consular services for Israeli citizens will be provided in coordination with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs through a designated privately-operated international travel company based in Doha. Palestinians will have access to consular services at the Palestinian embassy in Doha.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino said: “We are delighted that an agreement has been reached for Israeli and Palestinian fans to visit Qatar and attend matches during the FIFA World Cup. With this deal, Israelis and Palestinians will be able to fly together and enjoy football together.
“I would like to thank our Israeli, Palestinian and Qatari counterparts for helping to make this happen. Football has the power to bring people together, it transcends all boundaries, crosses all borders, and fosters unity like nothing else. The World Cup is the ultimate symbol of football’s unifying power, and today’s historic announcement provides a platform to improve relations across the Middle East.”
The Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Alon Ushpiz, said: “Today’s announcement will allow Israeli citizens to freely travel to Qatar and attend matches at the World Cup. We have successfully secured all guarantees, including access to consular services for Israelis during their stay in Qatar. As the first World Cup ever hosted in the Middle East, it promises to be a celebration of football and an opportunity for Israelis to build connections and share cultural experiences with people from across our region and the wider world.”
And a spokesperson for Q22 (which is partially owned by the Qatari authorities) said: “Since winning the rights to host the FIFA World Cup 2022, we have always said that all ticket holders will be able to attend matches in Qatar. The announcement today illustrates our commitment to respecting FIFA’s policies and hosting requirements including the right of everyone to attend matches.
“This also includes the requirement that Palestinian ticket holders and media are able to travel on these chartered flights with no restrictions as they have an equal right to enjoy the tournament, which is made extra special by it being the first World Cup to be hosted in the Arab and Muslim world. The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 is on course to leave a positive legacy on Qatar, the Middle East and the Arab world, and with 2.9 million of the three million tickets now sold, we look forward to welcoming fans from around the globe.”