Published: 2018-10-29 18:13
Last Updated: 2018-10-29 21:10
Rapprochement between Israel, the UAE and Qatar as Israeli athletic teams participate on par with other nationalities in Abu Dhabi and Doha sporting championships.
Judo Athletes from 62 countries participated in the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam, with Israel represented by 11 competitors, during which a gold medal was awarded to Israeli Sagi Muki.
The display of Israel’s insignia and hearing the Hatikva national anthem, moved Israeli Culture and Sport Minister, Miri Regev, to tears; as for the first time, Israel is treated in equal conditions.
“It is a dream come true,” Regev said after the ceremony. “For two years we had talks in order to reach this moment and it was hard to stop the tears. I want to thank the authorities in Abu Dhabi and our hosts here who received us in an exemplary manner.”
A year earlier, Abu Dhabi banned the display of Israeli emblems from the Judo Tournament. The UAE refused to normalize Israeli participation and had actually cancelled this year’s event too, along with another one in Tunisia.
The tournament was instated, however, after the International Judo Federation (IJF) threatened to remove the UAE’s hosting rights.
“The International Judo Federation is pleased to announce that following the suspension of the Tunis Grand Prix and the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam, on September 2 2018, the UAE Judo Federation confirmed in an official letter sent to the IJF that all nations participating in the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam will have the possibility to do so in equal conditions. The historic decision will thus allow all nations to display their national insignia and national anthem, including Israel.“
The right to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup was awarded to Qatar, and it was stated that Israel will be allowed to compete should it qualifies.
Qatar is currently hosting the 48th Artistic Gymnastics World Championships (FIG) in Doha, from October 25 to November 3, 2018. The Israeli team was welcomed well by Qatar.
“The organizers checked to see if the flag is okay this morning. They played the [Israeli national anthem] Hatikva and we signed everything, so we hope that when we get to the hall, the organizers will respect us as they promised”, said the manager of the Israeli delegation. “We were very well received and we’re happy with the hospitality”, he added.
In September, an Israeli lawmaker, Yoel Razvozov, demanded that the Qatar Gymnastics Federation displayed Israeli symbols at the competition. The president of the Qatari federation replied “that Israeli gymnasts will be treated the same way as athletes from other countries participating in competitions.” He added, “Qatar is a friendly country that seeks to ensure safety and equal treatment of all athletes who come to the country. We love sports and treat with due respect all athletes who represent their country and are ambassadors of the world,” he added.
last February, Doha hosted the World School Championship Handball Tournament. The organisers of the event walked a fine line by allowing an Israeli team to compete, and public treatment of the Israelis was handled with caution.
However, when the Israeli team won the bronze, the arena burst with a chorus of boos.
The couch of the Israeli team, Nisim Falach, said “Initially, they didn’t put our games in the main hall. They wanted to hide Israel’s participation. So when we kept winning over and over, and advancing in the tournament, they were in shock…When we eventually won against Turkey, our game was in the main arena and it was broadcast on Qatari television”.
A Middle East analyst, Sigurd Neubauer, said that the “Sporting events allow Qatar to connect with countries beyond the Gulf and the Arab world,” and that “They demonstrate that Qatar is not isolated by the international community. And Israel is a member of that international community.”
A senior researcher at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies sees that Qatar has a gain in normalising with Israel, “When Qatar is in the midst of this crisis with its neighbors, being open to Israelis can earn it a lot of points with the American [Trump] administration. The fact that it can host an Israeli delegation but the Saudis won’t – who’s more tolerant, who’s more liberal?” he asks.