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Israel will open its airspace for international flights to and from Qatar during this year’s soccer World Cup, after a deal was reached Wednesday with Jordanian and European aviation authorities

Updated  

Jun-15 21:32 first published at 21:32 PM


After reaching an agreement with Jordanian and European aviation officials on Wednesday, Israel will let international flights to pass through Israeli airspace on their way to and from Qatar during this year’s soccer World Cup.

The announcement comes a week after the Israeli government celebrated a deal with FIFA that will allow Israeli soccer fans to go to Qatar for the World Cup in November and December, despite the fact that the two countries do not have formal diplomatic relations.

According to the declaration made on Wednesday, European and American fans heading to Qatar will be able to fly over Israel on their trip to the Gulf, as well as on their way back, when traveling eastward from Cyprus to Jordan.

According to a source familiar with the situation, the agreement will continue for eastbound flights to Qatar even after the World Cup.

The Israel Aviation Authority (IAA), the Israeli Air Force, and the Civil Aviation Authority established an agreement with Jordan’s aviation authorities as well as Eurocontrol, the European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation.

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The IAA claims that as a result of the agreement, many more flights — not just those to and from Qatar — will travel over Israel, more than doubling the number of overflights.

Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli remarked, “Israel is displaying sportsmanship by opening its aerial boundaries for the benefit of travelers.” “I appreciate the collaboration, and I look forward to strengthening future regional collaborations.”

Israeli citizens, who can normally only enter Qatar on a foreign passport, will be permitted to freely travel and attend games during the next tournament, according to a joint statement released last week by the ministries of foreign affairs, defense, and culture and sport.

Under the terms of the deal reached with FIFA, the sport’s international governing body, Israelis seeking to attend must purchase a ticket to a game, then apply online for a fan ID card, approval of which grants its holder entry to Qatar and enables them to book accommodation.

Security concerns over travel to Qatar, a country with significant ties to both the West and Iran, as well as the Hamas terror group, were not addressed in the statement.

According to the announcement at the time, efforts are also being undertaken to permit direct flights from Israel to the tiny Gulf republic. Since Wednesday’s agreement does not allow for direct flights between Israel and Qatar, this issue remains unresolved.

Pressure on sporting events has aided Israel in expanding its diplomatic frontiers in the Gulf. In 2018, two years before agreeing to establish ties with Israel, Abu Dhabi began allowing the Israeli flag to be shown and anthem to be heard during sporting events, ending a longstanding policy the United Arab Emirates had shared with most other Gulf states.

Qatar hosted an Israeli trade office from 1995 to 2000, but is seen as unlikely to join other Gulf states in establishing full ties with Israel due to its relationship with Iran.

This article was written with the help of Amy Spiro.

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