Israelis to fly to FIFA World Cup in first-ever 'direct' TLV-Qatar flights

The flights will reportedly land in Cyprus for a "diplomatic layover" in order to prevent them from being technically direct.

 Fifa World Cup 2022 branding is seen at Hamad International Airport. (photo credit: REUTERS/HAMAD I MOHAMMED)
Fifa World Cup 2022 branding is seen at Hamad International Airport.
(photo credit: REUTERS/HAMAD I MOHAMMED)

Israelis and Palestinians will fly together on joint charter flights from Israel to Qatar for the FIFA World Cup in late November, marking the first direct flights from Tel Aviv to Doha in history, FIFA announced on Thursday.

Visitors will need a registered Hayya (a fan ID required for entry into Qatar during the World Cup) and a valid flight ticket to travel to and from Qatar. The flights will reportedly take a "diplomatic layover" in Cyprus in order for the flight to be considered from Cyprus to the Gulf state instead of from Israel.

Israel and Qatar do not have diplomatic relations, but Israel did announce earlier this year that Israeli citizens would be able to enter Qatar for the World Cup.

Consular services for Israelis will be provided in coordination with the Israeli Foreign Ministry through a privately-operated international travel company based in Qatar. Palestinians will receive consular services through the Palestinian Embassy in Doha.

"We are delighted that an agreement has been reached for Israeli and Palestinian fans to visit Qatar and attend matches during the FIFA World Cup," said FIFA President Gianni Infantino. "With this deal, Israelis and Palestinians will be able to fly together and enjoy football together."

"I would like to thank our Israeli, Palestinian and Qatari counterparts for helping to make this happen. Football has the power to bring people together, it transcends all boundaries, crosses all borders, and fosters unity like nothing else. The World Cup is the ultimate symbol of football's unifying power, and today's historic announcement provides a platform to improve relations across the Middle East,” added Infantino.

 General view as people pose for a picture ahead of the World Cup in Qatar. (credit: REUTERS/HAMAD I MOHAMMED) General view as people pose for a picture ahead of the World Cup in Qatar. (credit: REUTERS/HAMAD I MOHAMMED)

Israeli officials welcome the announcement

Alon Ushpiz, director-general of the Foreign Ministry, welcomed the announcement, stating "Today's announcement will allow Israeli citizens to freely travel to Qatar and attend matches at the World Cup."

"We have successfully secured all guarantees, including access to consular services for Israelis during their stay in Qatar. As the first World Cup ever hosted in the Middle East, it promises to be a celebration of football and an opportunity for Israelis to build connections and share cultural experiences with people from across our region and the wider world."

Prime Minister Yair Lapid welcomed the news, calling it ""Good news for soccer fans and all citizens of Israel."

"After hard work that lasted for many months, we have arranged for Israeli citizens the possibility to fly to the World Cup in Qatar on direct flights and an Israeli office will be opened in Qatar to handle fans who will come to the World Cup," said Lapid, thanking everyone who took part in the efforts.

Qatar stresses announcement shows it will respect FIFA policies

A spokesperson for FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 LLC (Q22) stated that the announcement illustrates Qatar's commitment to "respecting FIFA's policies and hosting requirements including the right of everyone to attend matches."

"This also includes the requirement that Palestinian ticket holders and media are able to travel on these chartered flights with no restrictions as they have an equal right to enjoy the tournament, which is made extra special by it being the first World Cup to be hosted in the Arab and Muslim world. The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 is on course to leave a positive legacy on Qatar, the Middle East and the Arab world, and with 2.9 million of the three million tickets now sold, we look forward to welcoming fans from around the globe."