Violence in the West Bank has skyrocketed in recent months as Israel escalated overnight arrest raids, making 2022 the deadliest in the occupied territory since 2006.
FIFA also announced on Thursday that a temporary consular service would assist Israelis in Doha during the tournament. Some 3,800 Israelis and 8,000 Palestinians have applied for the Hayya card, which acts as an entry visa to Qatar for the football tournament.
“Consular services for Israeli citizens will be provided in coordination with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs through a designated private international travel agency based in Doha,” FIFA said.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid welcomed the agreement as the result of “hard work over the course of many months”.
A statement from the Qatari government said the travel arrangement for Israeli citizens “is part of Qatar’s commitment to FIFA’s host requirements and should not be politicized”.
Israel has invaded the region before, partly as a result of international events. Israel took part in the Expo 2020 World Expo in Dubai. The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain normalized relations with Israel two years ago.
To counter criticism, Qatar stressed that “its stance on normalization has not changed” and that it continues to support the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel as the solution to the decades-old conflict. There have been no serious peace talks for more than a decade.
“Recently we have not seen any positive developments in the peace process that would merit a change in our policy,” the Qatari government added.
Qatar agreed to welcome all fans to the country when it began campaigning to host the World Cup and when it signed contracts with FIFA after winning the vote in December 2010. A similar commitment was made to the commercial partners of FIFA by respecting Qatar’s strict restrictions on the consumption and purchase of alcohol so that it can be served at official World Cup venues.
The tournament – the first World Cup to be hosted in the Middle East and an Arab nation – will run from November 20 to December 18.
However, Israeli and Palestinian fans will not rely on their national teams. The Israeli national team, which for security reasons has not played in the Asian qualification for the World Cup since the 1970s, has not moved on from the European group to the tournament in Qatar. The Palestinian team was eliminated in a preliminary qualifying group won by Saudi Arabia.
Only fans with match tickets will be allowed to enter Qatar until December 2 to reduce demand for a limited supply of accommodation in the small emirate, while all 32 teams are still playing. Fans without tickets can arrive later, in time for the first knockout round of 16 teams.