No airline agreed to be the first ever to fly directly from Israel to Qatar by Tuesday, with only five days left until the World Cup begins in the Gulf State, the Foreign Ministry confirmed.
Israel and FIFA, the international soccer body, released enthusiastic statements last week that Qatar permitted direct flights from Israel. Israel and Qatar do not have diplomatic relations, but Doha had to allow Israelis to attend the tournament as part of FIFA’s terms for it to host.
“The Foreign Ministry built a platform by which private airlines can request to fly directly from Israel to Qatar,” but none have availed themselves of that option as of yet, National Public Diplomacy Directorate head Lior Haiat explained.
Cypriot Tus Airways will be operating flights separately from the Foreign Ministry’s arrangements that will fly from Tel Aviv to Larnaca for a “diplomatic layover” - meaning that the plane will wait a short time on the tarmac - before continuing to Qatar.
FIFA and Qatar also said that Israel would permit Palestinians to fly on direct flights from Ben-Gurion airport, which seemed unlikely to actually happen.
The Foreign Ministry said Israel has not received any requests from Palestinians to fly to the tournament from Israel. Palestinians are not generally granted access to Ben-Gurion Airport; rather, they travel to Jordan for international flights.
3,500 registered Israelis bought tickets for the World Cup in Qatar
An estimated 10-20,000 Israelis have bought tickets for the once-in-four-years event, but only 3,500 registered as Israelis. The Foreign Ministry warned that Qatar said Israelis who enter the country on foreign passports will be regarded as citizens of that third country, meaning that Israel will not be able to intervene if they are injured, missing, or arrested.
Foreign Ministry staff will be providing consular services via a situation room in Doha, and plans to distribute cards with emergency phone numbers to Israelis on flights departing from Ben-Gurion Airport.
In addition, the ministry recommended that all Israelis download the Foreign Ministry’s new TravIL app, which has emergency phone numbers, notifications of travel warnings and other information for Israelis traveling abroad.
Jerusalem clarified that the team on the ground in Qatar is not equivalent to steps toward normalization between the countries.
“The goal is not a diplomatic presence, but to give services to our citizens,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon explained.