November 17 – Israel is urging its citizens travelling to the World Cup in Qatar to keep a low profile.
Despite not having qualified, thousands of Israelis are due to attend the first World Cup in the Middle East.
Israel and Qatar have no formal diplomatic relations but in a landmark deal, Israelis without foreign passports can travel to Qatar for the World Cup despite the lack of ties between the countries.
Qatar announced last week it will even allow direct flights from Tel Aviv to Doha, as well as for Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza, whose ability to travel depends on Israeli government approval.
Like many Gulf Arab citizens, including those in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain which normalised relations with Israel in 2020, Qataris have a history of support for the Palestinian cause.
Also crucial to Israel’s concerns is that there are expected to be a significant number of fans supporting Iran – politically Israel’s arch enemy.
Israelis have been asked to hide any national symbols.
“The Iranian team will be in the World Cup and we estimate that tens of thousands [of] fans will follow it, and there will be other fans from Gulf countries that we don’t have [a] diplomatic relationship with,” said Lior Haiat, a senior Israeli diplomat.
“Downplay your Israeli presence and Israeli identity for the sake of your personal security.”
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