Qatar has called on Israel to allow Palestinians to attend this year's FIFA World Cup tournament which will kick off in the small Gulf State in November. The request was made during conversations between officials in anticipation of a period of open diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Although Qatar does not have any formal ties with Israel, it is in talks with Tel Aviv to allow the occupation state to open a temporary consular office to support an estimated 10,000 Israeli football fans who are expected to make the trip to attend the football tournament. If opened, the office is expected to close once the games come to an end.
According to Haaretz, sources briefed on the conversation between Qatar and Israel said that Doha wants to present the football tournament as apolitical, and therefore ensure full access for both Israelis and Palestinians. Doha's approval was in line with such a spirit, a gesture which it now hopes will be reciprocated by Israel. The apartheid state has full control of the movement of Palestinians in and out of the occupied territories. Restricting movement is one of the main tools employed by Israel to enforce its occupation regime.
This means that it can prevent, or allow, Palestinians travelling to the World Cup, while Israeli citizens, including the 750,000 who live in illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, can come and go unhindered. It remains uncertain how many Palestinians will be allowed to travel to Qatar and, more importantly, return to their homeland.
The sources are reported as saying that the Qataris made their request as mediators between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and in light of an incident several years ago, in which Israel prevented the Palestine national football team from participating in the qualifying rounds of the AFC Asian Cup, also held in Qatar.
Relations between Qatar and Israel have improved over the years. However, there is no indication that Doha will upgrade its ties with Tel Aviv until there is significant progress in ending the illegal occupation of Palestine.