Israelis, Palestinians can fly on same flights to World Cup

Nov 9, 2022, 5:42 PM | Updated: Nov 10, 2022, 12:31 pm
A Qatar Airways aircraft lands with members of the United States national soccer team at Hamad Inte...

A Qatar Airways aircraft lands with members of the United States national soccer team at Hamad International airport in Doha, Qatar, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022 ahead of the upcoming World Cup. The US will play their first match in the World Cup against Wales on Nov. 21. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

(AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Soccer fans from Israel and the Palestinian territories will be able to fly directly to the FIFA World Cup in Qatar from Tel Aviv for the first time, soccer’s global governing body announced Thursday. The development is a breakthrough agreement for Israel and Qatar — two countries without diplomatic relations.

The charter flights to Doha from Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv for the tournament starting Nov. 20 will be open to all Palestinians, FIFA said. That includes residents and accredited media workers from the occupied West Bank and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, which has been under a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade for 15 years.

Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza do not have their own airport and must apply for a hard-to-obtain airport permit to use Ben Gurion. Such permits are only approved, if at all, shortly before takeoff.

Israel may still refuse to grant exit permits to residents of blockaded Gaza seeking to fly out of Tel Aviv to attend the World Cup. Such permission is only granted in exceptional circumstances.

Israeli officials had no immediate details on how many flights would take place or how many Palestinians would be allowed to travel. When asked for comment on the arrangement, Ahmad Deek, the director-general of the Palestinian Foreign Ministry, said it was the first he’d heard of it.

Israeli citizens cannot ordinarily fly directly to Doha or enter Qatar on their Israeli passports. Relations have soured since Doha closed an Israeli trade office in 2008 over the Gaza war. Even without diplomatic relations, Qatar helps mediate between Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers during rounds of conflict.

Washington lauded the development and said 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.”

However, the breakthrough travel arrangement could still fall apart.

The Qatari government said that Doha told Israel that “any escalation in Jerusalem, Gaza or the West Bank during this time will risk the cancellation of the agreement — including the direct flights.”

Violence in the West Bank has surged in recent months as Israel has escalated nightly arrest raids, making 2022 the deadliest in the occupied territory since 2006.

FIFA also announced on Thursday that a temporary consular service would assist Israelis in Doha during the tournament. Some 3,800 Israelis and 8,000 Palestinians have applied for the Hayya card, which acts as an entry visa to Qatar for the soccer tournament.

“Consular services for Israeli citizens will be provided in coordination with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs through a designated privately operated international travel company based in Doha,” FIFA said.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid welcomed the agreement as the result “hard work over the course of many months.”

A Qatari government statement said the travel arrangement for Israeli citizens was “part of Qatar’s commitment to FIFA’s hosting requirements and it should not be politicized.”

Israel has previously made inroads into the region in part due to international events. Dubai’s Expo 2020 world’s fair saw Israel participate. The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain normalized relations with Israel two years ago.

To head off criticism, Qatar stressed that “its stance on normalization has not changed” and that the country continues to support the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel as the solution to the decades-old conflict. There have been no serious peace talks in more than a decade.

“As of late, we have not seen any positive developments in the peace process that would merit a change in our policy,” the Qatari government added.

Qatar consented to welcoming all fans into the country when it started campaigning to host the World Cup, and when it signed contracts with FIFA after winning the vote in December 2010. A similar obligation was made to respect FIFA commercial partners by easing Qatar’s strict limits on the consumption and purchase of alcohol so it could be served at official World Cup sites.

The tournament — the first World Cup to be hosted in the Middle East and an Arab nation — runs from Nov. 20 to Dec. 18.

However, Israeli and Palestinian fans won’t be rooting for their national teams. The Israeli national team, which has not played in Asian qualifying for the World Cup since the 1970s for security reasons, did not advance to the tournament in Qatar from its European group. The Palestinian team was eliminated in a preliminary qualifying group won by Saudi Arabia.

Only fans with match tickets are allowed to enter Qatar until Dec. 2 to ease the demand on a limited supply of accommodation in the tiny emirate when all 32 teams are still playing. Ticketless fans can arrive later, in time for the first knockout round of 16 teams.


Dunbar reported from Geneva. Associated Press writers Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.


AP World Cup coverage: and

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior, left, in action against Mallorca's goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic durin...
Associated Press

Vinícius Júnior again targeted by racist insults in Spain

MADRID (AP) — The hate attacks against Vinícius Júnior continued in Spain over the weekend, with the Brazil forward again being targeted by racist insults in a league match. The Spanish league said Monday it will investigate the latest attacks after television images showed someone calling him a monkey during Real Madrid’s 1-0 loss at […]
1 day ago
Italy's Federica Brignone speeds down the course during the super G portion of an alpine ski, women...
Associated Press

Brignone leads combined race at worlds; Shiffrin 0.96 behind

MERIBEL, France (AP) — Italian skier Federica Brignone posted the fastest time in the super-G portion of the women’s combined event Monday on the opening day of the world championships, leading defending champion Mikaela Shiffrin by almost a second. Racing under blue skies, Brignone found the fastest line on the Roc de Fer course as […]
1 day ago
FILE - Fans welcome Manchester City players before the start of the English Premier League soccer m...
Associated Press

Man City accused of breaching Premier League financial rules

LONDON (AP) — Manchester City was accused by the Premier League on Monday of breaching a slew of financial rules from 2009-18, during which the club became a force in English and European soccer following its takeover by Abu Dhabi’s ruling family. The league released a long statement detailing a list of alleged breaches of […]
1 day ago
Field hockey players of a local club attend a training session, in Karachi, Pakistan, Sunday, Nov. ...
Associated Press

Sports pitch for level playing field in cricket-mad Pakistan

ISLAMABAD (AP) — On Islamabad’s outskirts, burly men bind together in a scrum on a rugby pitch that has seen better days. The sign bearing the club’s name is worn. The floodlights are too costly to use, given high electricity prices and the paltry $135 total that the club earns in membership fees every month. […]
1 day ago
NASCAR Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr. (19) poses for a photo with the championship trophy after...
Associated Press

Truex wins NASCAR’s sloppy return to Los Angeles Coliseum

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Martin Truex Jr. won NASCAR’s return to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for its season-opening exhibition race — a sloppy Sunday night extravaganza in which the Wiz Khalifa halftime show might have been the most entertaining part of the event. Truex took the lead with 25 laps to go in the […]
1 day ago
Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (12) reacts in the second half of an NBA basketball game against ...
Associated Press

Morant says friend banned from arena over Pacers dispute

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant tweeted Sunday that a friend of his has been banned from games at FedExForum for a year as a result of a confrontation between his supporters and members of the Indiana Pacers organization a week earlier. The NBA confirmed that unnamed individuals have been banned from […]
1 day ago
Israelis, Palestinians can fly on same flights to World Cup