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Qatar Will Allow Israelis to Fly On to Doha for World Cup


JERUSALEM — Israelis can be permitted to fly directly between Israel and Qatar throughout the soccer World Cup this month, officials from each nations announced on Thursday, in the newest sign of warming ties between Jerusalem and a few Arab governments.

As a part of the deal, Qatar will permit Israeli diplomats, under the umbrella of a personal travel company, to supply consular support to Israelis throughout the tournament. The Israeli public broadcaster, Kan, has also been allowed to establish a short lived studio in Doha to supply Israeli viewers with coverage of the matches.

The total details weren’t available, but those moves, gleaned from interviews and separate statements from Israel and FIFA, soccer’s governing body, fell well wanting creating formal diplomatic relations between Israel and Qatar. The Gulf state has ruled out full normalization with Israel until the creation of a Palestinian state.

The gestures even have precedent: Israel and Qatar have publicly cooperated on low-level diplomatic and economic issues for the reason that Nineteen Nineties. But in response to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, there have never been direct flights between the 2 countries.

The announcement mirrored a wider recent thaw between Israel and certain Arab governments that began two years ago. Then Bahrain, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates signed full normalization agreements with Israel, in deals brokered by the Trump administration. This yr, Saudi Arabia also gave Israeli airlines permission to fly through Saudi airspace, in an arrangement brokered by the Biden administration.

Those shifts highlight how, for some Arab states, their national interests have change into a more pressing priority than the immediate creation of a Palestinian state. For a long time, most Arab countries refused to work with Israel until there was a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, however the growing appeal of economic and military ties to Israel, coupled with mutual security concerns, has prompted some Arab leaders to rethink that approach.

The Qatari government, which has a fractious relationship with Bahrain and lingering tensions with the U.A.E., made clear on Thursday that any escalation of violence in Israel and the occupied territories throughout the tournament would result in the cancellation of the flights.

Qatar has already put strict rules in place for visitors to the World Cup: Only individuals with match tickets and permits called Hayya cards can be allowed to go to. A Qatari official who insisted on the condition of anonymity to debate sensitive issues also said the temporary opening to Israelis was purely to comply with FIFA hosting requirements.

Officials from Qatar and FIFA, the organizers of the World Cup, said that Palestinians can be allowed to fly to Qatar from an Israeli airport, however it was unclear how that premise can be carried out in time for the tournament, which starts in lower than two weeks.

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A senior Israeli diplomat, Lior Hayat, said that the plan had yet to be fully mapped out. “There isn’t really a system for that,” Mr. Hayat said. “It was just agreed on this afternoon.”

Palestinians will still must get approval from the Israeli government to fly out of and re-enter Israel, Mr. Hayat said — a lengthy process that may take weeks and sometimes months, whether it is successful in any respect.

A spokeswoman for Hussein al-Sheikh, who leads Palestinian coordination with Israel, declined to comment.

The Israeli prime minister, Yair Lapid, said in an announcement, “That is great news for football fans and for all Israelis.” However the statement made no mention of allowing Palestinians to fly to Qatar from Israel.

Qatar has fielded growing criticism from abroad as host of the tournament, particularly over the rights of the low-income migrant employees who built the country’s skyscrapers and stadiums, and over the treatment of L.G.B.T.Q. people, who face discrimination and potentially arrest within the autocratic monarchy. Some analysts have also raised concerns about whether the tiny country’s infrastructure is able to handle the influx of greater than 1,000,000 fans.

Qatari officials say the country has improved rights for migrant employees. They seem to have grown increasingly frustrated with the criticism in recent weeks, with the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, suggesting that it amounted to a campaign based on fabrication and double standards.

Though Israel and Qatar have never established full diplomatic ties, they’ve worked together publicly for greater than twenty years. Within the late Nineteen Nineties, Israel operated a trade liaison office in Doha, the Qatari capital, until tensions between Israelis and Palestinians led Qatar to shut it down.

Israeli and Qatari politicians have met several times, including in Qatar, and the Gulf state has often allowed Israeli sports players to compete in its territory. Israel doesn’t have a team on this World Cup.

Israel has allowed Qatari officials to cross its territory to enter the Gaza Strip and to fund a soccer stadium in an Arab city in Israel. Qatar also mediates between Israel and militants from Hamas, the Islamist group within the Gaza Strip.

While public opinion within the Arab world generally opposes the normalization of ties with Israel, Qataris have a more favorable view of Israel than most Arabs, in response to latest polling by Keevon Global Research, an Israeli firm, and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, a German political foundation and research group.

Nearly half of Qataris view Israel favorably, behind Emiratis, and much ahead of Bahrainis, Moroccans and Saudis, in response to the research. Other polls have shown way more negative attitudes within the Gulf toward normalization with Israel.

Patrick Kingsley reported from Jerusalem, and Vivian Nereim from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

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