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Groundbreaking steps: shared flights for Israeli and Palestinian football fans for World Cup 2022 in Qatar

Officials from Israel and Qatar announced that Israelis would be able to fly directly between the two countries during the World Cup football tournament.

Israel and Qatar have cooperated publicly in low-level diplomatic and economic negotiations for decades, but there are currently no direct flights connecting the two countries.

The announcement, coming in the wake of warming Israeli ties with some Arab governments, marks the latest sign of a thawing diplomatic ice age.

Qatar has also granted Israeli diplomats the right to provide consular support to Israeli citizens during the event. In addition, Israel’s public broadcaster has been permitted to set up a temporary studio in Doha to provide coverage of matches for viewers in Israel.

As announced by the officials from Qatar and FIFA, what is also a novelty is that Palestinians will be granted permits to fly to Qatar from an Israeli airport. However, Palestinians would still need approval from the Israeli government to fly out of and re-enter Israel.

Recently, several Arab governments have established more peaceful relationships with Israel, mirroring what is happening globally. This has been particularly true in the past two years when Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates agreed to normalize their relations with Israel.

For decades, most Arab countries refused to work with Israel. That changed when economic and security reasons outweighed their stance on relations with Palestine. Recent moves to shift away from an immediate resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict highlight how some Arab countries place their national interests above the desire for an independent Palestinian state.

Yet so far, Qatar has ruled out full normalization with Israel until a Palestinian state is created, and the Qatari government clarified that the flights would be canceled if there was any escalation of violence in Israel or the occupied territories during the tournament.

Qatar spends billions on infrastructure in preparation for hosting the World Cup. However, there’s growing criticism worldwide as people allege Qatar mistreated migrant workers and L.G.B.T.Q. people who have been arrested and persecuted.

Qatar has made strides in its treatment of migrant workers, but critics of these laws still believe there is room for improvement. Recently, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, has come out to defend Qatar against the criticism, slamming the accusations as based on fabrication and double standards.

Even so, Qatar wants and needs the 2022 World Cup tournament to be successful, and it seems brave enough to tackle even more sensitive issues, either internally, like the newly adopted labour laws, or externally, in relation to Israel.

Read FIFA announcement here: https://www.fifa.com/tournaments/mens/worldcup/qatar2022/media-releases/israelis-and-palestinians-to-fly-together-to-the-fifa-world-cup-qatar-2022

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