JERUSALEM, Nov 17 (Reuters) – Israel has asked its citizens attending the World Cup to exercise caution while in Qatar, the Arab host country which does not formally recognise it but admitted a team of its diplomats to Doha to provide assistance.
Between 10,000 and 20,000 Israelis are expected at the soccer tournament that kicks off on Sunday, including some travelling on as-yet unfinalised direct flights from Tel Aviv that Qatar said it would permit for the event. read more
In another measure of new normalcy between the countries, the Israelis coming for the World Cup have been given temporary visas, an Israeli diplomat said on Thursday. Qatar says official normalisation of ties in not in the works, however.
The Israeli team is not playing in the tournament; it did not qualify.
The diplomat, Alon Lavi, is the spokesperson for a consular team that he said was working out of a Doha hotel with duties that included advising Israelis to be especially careful about obeying local laws and avoiding friction with rival fans.
“We are guests here, and there are many guests from many countries – including countries that we are, perhaps, less accustomed to being right up next to – and the rules here are ultimately more stringent,” he told Israel’s Army Radio.
Qatar is close to Iran, Israel’s arch-enemy, and has hosted leaders of the Palestinian Islamist militant group Hamas, which rules Gaza and has fought several wars against Israel. But Qatar also bankrolls reconstruction in Gaza with Israel’s blessing.
“The (consular) delegation is here to assist in all events,” Lavi said. “But we do not have all of the infrastructure that perhaps other countries have, and certainly given that we don’t have diplomatic ties (with Qatar), and therefore the (potential) arrest of Israelis here is something that troubles us.”
Though alcohol is being permitted in select World Cup venues, a public service announcement issued by Israel’s Foreign Ministry counselled avoiding drink altogether. “In court, the judge doesn’t have VAR,” the narrator says, in a play on the “video assistant referee” that facilitates soccer calls.
Reporting by Dan Williams; Editing by Bradley Perrett
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