Israel cautions citizens at Qatar World Cup, sends low-key consuls

Israelis coming for the World Cup have been given temporary visas, an Israeli diplomat said on Thursday. Qatar says official normalization of ties is not in the works, however.

 Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - A football fan with an Argentine flag is photographed in Doha, Qatar - November 15, 2022.  (photo credit: KAI PFAFFENBACH/REUTERS)
Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - A football fan with an Argentine flag is photographed in Doha, Qatar - November 15, 2022.
(photo credit: KAI PFAFFENBACH/REUTERS)

Israel has asked its citizens attending the World Cup to exercise caution while in Qatar, the Arab host country which does not formally recognize 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 traveling on as-yet unfinalized direct flights from Tel Aviv that Qatar said it would permit for the event.

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 normalization of ties is 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.

 People walk past an illuminated soccer ball ahead of the FIFA 2022 World cup soccer tournament at Katara Cultural Village in Doha, Qatar November 15, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/FABRIZIO BENSCH) People walk past an illuminated soccer ball ahead of the FIFA 2022 World cup soccer tournament at Katara Cultural Village in Doha, Qatar November 15, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/FABRIZIO BENSCH)

"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, Iran and Hamas

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.

"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."

Diplomat Alon Lavi

"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 counseled 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.