March 28, 2023
FIFA announces charter flights from Tel Aviv to Doha for the World Cup in Qatar

FIFA announces charter flights from Tel Aviv to Doha for the World Cup in Qatar

Qatar says the flight arrangements are in line with FIFA’s host rules but insists its stance on normalizing ties with Israel remains unchanged.

FIFA announced on Thursday the operation of direct charter flights between Tel Aviv and Doha during the upcoming World Cup, with Qatar stressing that its stance on normalizing relations with Israel, with which it has no diplomatic ties, remains unchanged.

Football’s world governing body said it brokered the deal, which would allow holders of playing cards and valid Hayya fan badges to board flights from Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport to Doha’s Hamad International Airport during the month-long event.

The Hayya ID card is a personalized identification document issued and required by every person participating in a game. At least 8,000 Palestinians and 3,900 Israelis have applied for a Hayya card, a source familiar with the arrangement told Reuters.

Federation President Gianni Infantino said the deal will allow Israeli and Palestinian fans to visit Qatar and attend matches during the World Cup.

“With this deal, Israelis and Palestinians can fly together and enjoy football together,” Infantino said in a statement.

However, FIFA did not share specific details on how Palestinians can use the flights, as Israel severely restricts access to Ben Gurion for residents of the occupied Palestinian territories. Palestinians in the occupied West Bank normally transit through Jordan, and it is virtually impossible for Gazans to enter Ben Gurion Airport.

A spokesman for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 said that since Doha was awarded the rights to host the global event, it has emphasized that all ticket holders will be able to attend matches in the country. The spokesman also said that this announcement reflects Qatar’s commitment to respecting FIFA guidelines and hosting requirements.

The deal on direct flights does not change Qatar’s stance on normalizing relations with Israel, which is linked to Palestinian statehood, which will be achieved through a two-state solution in line with relevant Security Council resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative, a Qatari official said Official.

“Because of this agreement, the Palestinians can now enjoy the first World Cup in the Arab and Muslim world,” the official said.

Noting that Qatar has not seen any positive developments in the peace process that merited a change in its current policies, the official stressed that flight arrangements depended on Israel’s commitment to non-escalation in the Palestinian territories.

Israeli passport holders can usually only travel to Qatar on special visas issued for sporting events or conferences. There are no existing direct flights between the two countries.

“This is great news for football fans and for all Israelis. After hard work over many months, we have ensured Israeli citizens can fly to the World Cup in Qatar with direct flights and opened an Israeli office in Qatar to offer services to the fans coming to the World Cup,” said Israel’s outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

FIFA confirmed that the consular services for Israeli citizens will be provided by a designated privately owned international travel company based in Doha, in coordination with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Palestinians will have access to consular services at the Palestinian Embassy in Doha.

The flight arrangement is “subject to Israel’s security requirements and operational capabilities,” FIFA said in a statement.

Qatar’s Gulf neighbors the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain established diplomatic ties with Israel in 2020 under US-brokered pacts.

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