Add another Gulf destination has opened to Israeli citizens, at least for a month.
Despite a lack of diplomatic relations between Doha and Jerusalem, Israelis will have the opportunity to travel to Qatar for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, set for Nov. 21 through Dec. 18.
Israel made the announcement on Thursday after reaching an agreement with FIFA, soccer’s world governing body.
Under normal circumstances, Israelis are only allowed to travel to Qatar utilizing a foreign passport. There was no immediate comment from FIFA or Qatar, though Doha has previously said it would not block Israelis wishing to attend the tournament.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called the deal “another diplomatic achievement that will warm the hearts of soccer fans.” He noted that the agreement “opens a gate to new, warm relations.”
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz expressed his hope that “Israelis visiting [Qatar] will strengthen the bonds of understanding between citizens of the two countries.”
During the World Cup, Israelis will be able to freely travel and attend matches, after first purchasing a ticket and then applying online for a Fan ID card, which grants a ticket-holder entry to Qatar and the ability to order accommodations. Israel Hayom reported a month ago that more than 15,000 Israelis had already purchased tickets for the World Cup.
Qatar, which hosted an Israeli trade office from 1995 to 2000, is not seen as a likely addition to the series of Abraham Accords partners that have signed normalization agreements with Israel, allowing Israelis to visit the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco. Recent reports indicate that Israeli businesspeople have been regularly traveling to Saudi Arabia to sign deals there, as normalization with Riyadh slowly evolves.
Qatar, though, is a major benefactor of the terrorist Hamas group that runs the Gaza Strip and has a close relationship with Iran. Thursday’s announcement made no mention of security arrangements or concerns for Israelis traveling to Qatar for the World Cup. Israel’s national-security apparatus has recently increased its warning level for Israelis traveling abroad, of late to Turkey, due to fears of Iranian terror attacks and recommends against all non-essential travel to Qatar.
Israeli Minister of Culture and Sports Minister Chili Tropper said in a statement that “sports have the power to cross continents and connect peoples and countries,” and welcomed the ability of Israelis to take part “in the biggest celebration of soccer in the world.”
The reconciliation between Israel and its Arab neighbors may be a part of the prophesied reconciliation between Isaac and Ishmael. This is based on a verse in Genesis:
And Yitzchak and Ishmael, his sons, buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron, the son of Zohar the Hittite, which is before Mamre. Genesis 25:9
Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, the preeminent medieval French commentator on the Torah known by the acronym Rashi, interprets this verse to mean that Ishmael should have come first since he is older. Ishmael made peace with Isaac, allowing his younger half-brother to precede him at the funeral because he realized the spiritual superiority of Isaac. Rabbi Singer notes that the Talmud in Baba Batra (16b) predicts that this will have implications for the end of days.