Israel confirms talks to open temporary office in Qatar for World Cup

Official says office would help visitors to Gulf nation, with which Israel has no diplomatic relations, during November soccer tournament, but says these are not diplomatic talks

Branding is displayed near the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center, in Doha, Qatar, March 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
Branding is displayed near the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center, in Doha, Qatar, March 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

Israel and Qatar, which have no diplomatic relations, have discussed opening a temporary Israeli office in the Gulf state during the World Cup, an Israeli official told AFP Wednesday.

Israel has not qualified for the tournament, which begins in November, but has announced a deal that will allow its citizens, like other foreigners, to obtain a Qatari entry visa with proof of ticket purchase.

“There was contact between Israeli and Qatari officials,” an Israeli diplomatic official said, confirming the discussions had centered on opening a “temporary” office for Israeli fans attending the World Cup.

“They shouldn’t be classified as diplomatic talks. As of now, no agreement has been reached,” added the official, who requested anonymity.

Qatar does not recognize Israel and supports Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist terror group that controls Gaza and has fought four wars with Israel since 2008.

Israel, which along with Egypt maintains a blockade on Gaza aimed at preventing Hamas from smuggling in weapons, engages with Doha to grant permissions for the distribution of Qatari aid in the Palestinian coastal enclave, but details on such contacts are rarely publicly confirmed.

Israel has since September 2020 normalized relations with three Arab nations — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco.

Those agreements, sponsored by then-US president Donald Trump, broke with decades of Arab consensus that ties should only be established with Israel in the event of a peace agreement that gives the Palestinians their own state.

Qatar has been critical of the US-brokered agreements called the Abraham Accords.

Tensions between Israel and Qatar surged following the May killing of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh while she was covering an army raid in the occupied West Bank.

The Doha-based network and the Qatari state both accused Israeli of deliberately targeting Abu Akleh.

The Israeli army has conceded that one of its troops had likely shot her, but said it was an accident.

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