A Qatari sheikh has called for normalising ties with Israel, reported the Times of Israel.
“We can’t banish Israel and Israel can’t leave, people need to be realistic.” Hamad Al Suwaidi said during an interview with Israel’s public broadcaster Kan.
He acknowledged the expected backlash for speaking with Israeli media, however shrugged it off claiming to believe in “peace”.
“Certainly there will be criticism, but I have done nothing wrong,” he said. “I love peace, hope that peace will spread around the world and all the wars and problems will end. You will also live in peace like me. We are tolerant people, thank God.”
In a message to Israelis planning to attend the World Cup tournament in Qatar next month, he added: “Welcome to Doha, which is for everybody. This is also their country and they will be like brothers to us.”
Israel reached a deal with FIFA in June to allow Israelis to purchase tickets for the tournament and enter Qatar, making it the first time that Israelis will be allowed into the country without using a non-Israeli passport.
Its commitments to FIFA mean that Qatar is obliged to give the same treatment to all countries, without omitting any names or flags. Qatar World Cup officials have repeatedly said that all nationalities are welcome during the tournament. All football fans holding tickets for matches must apply for the Hayya card, a form of fan identification document, which doubles as their entry visa to Qatar.
Unlike its Gulf Arab neighbours, Bahrain and the UAE, which have signed normalisation agreements with Israel, Qatar has made normalised relations conditional upon the establishment of a Palestinian State.