emirates logo 88.
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Responding to reports that Emirates Airlines was not pleased with this week's sponsorship deal between London's Arsenal Football Club and the Israeli government, the Tourism Ministry has invited the airline's upper management to visit the Knesset.
Tourism Ministry director general Eli Cohen extended the invitation after Dubai-based publication The Khaleej Times quoted an Emirates Airlines spokesperson saying the airline was working to prevent a follow-on deal with the ministry.
"The Arsenal-Israel tie-up is unfortunate and we are obviously not happy. We will do our best to persuade Arsenal not to renew its deal with Israel," the spokesman said in the report.
Emirates became Arsenal's main sponsor when it bought the naming rights in 2004 to the club's new stadium, which is slated to open in August, for a reported $100 million. The Israeli government became a co-sponsor over the weekend by putting through a GBP350,000 sponsorship to the club for the 2006/07 season.
Under the agreement, Israel becomes the club's official and exclusive travel destination and will be featured on the digital media system at the stadium, on Arsenal's Website and in its magazine.
"We sent an official invitation to the airline to visit Israel, and in particular Eilat, to show them that Israel is a normal country," a Tourism Ministry spokesman said in response to the reports.
Israel has no diplomatic ties with the United Arab Emirates, which prohibits entry of Israeli citizens to its country. A number of Arsenal blog Web sites expressed their concern over the impact the deal could have on the club's relationship with the wealthy airline.
When the agreement was signed, Arsenal managing director Keith Edelman provided his assurance that Emirates had given its blessing to the partnership.
"Before we strike any deal, we discuss it with our partners. This was the situation here as well," he said at the Tel Aviv press conference on Sunday. The club reiterated this position on Wednesday.