Qatar allows Israeli soccer fans to fly direct from Tel Aviv – on one condition

The U.S. hailed the direct flights for the World Cup as a “historic development.”

By World Israel News Staff

Israeli soccer fans will be able to fly directly to the FIFA World Cup in Qatar from Tel Aviv for the first time, barring any “escalation” on Israel’s part, a Qatari official said on Thursday.

Direct charter flights will fly between Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv and Hamad International Airport in Doha for the duration of the sporting event, which kicks off November 20, FIFA announced. The charter flights will also be open to all Palestinians, the global soccer governing body added.

Doha and Jerusalem do not share diplomatic ties and as such Israeli visitors will need to enter the country with a fan ID in lieu of an entry visa. Tens of thousands of Israeli soccer fans are expected to travel to the country.

The Biden administration hailed the development, saying it will “benefit Israeli and Palestinian soccer fans alike as a step towards expanding greater freedom of travel for all.”

“The United States congratulates FIFA, Israel, and Qatar on the historic step of opening direct flights between Tel Aviv and Doha for the duration of the World Cup,” said U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price. “Today’s announcement is a historic development and an important step that also holds great promise to bolster people to people ties and economic relations.”

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The Qatari official stressed that the move did nothing to change Doha’s stance normalizing relations with Israel, which would not happen so long as the Palestinians are not granted a state.

“This is part of Qatar’s commitment to FIFA’s hosting requirements and it should not be politicized,” the official told Reuters. “Because of this agreement, Palestinians will now be able to enjoy the first World Cup in the Arab and Muslim world.”

Qatar also warned Israel “that any escalation in Jerusalem, Gaza or [Judea and Samaria] during [the World Cup] will risk the cancellation of the agreement including the direct flights,” the official said.

Israel allows Qatari funds to enter the Gaza Strip for humanitarian purposes, drawing criticism for doing so, since the Hamas terror group that rules the coastal enclave has in the past used aid money to build up its terror infrastructure.