Israel is proposing the introduction of direct flights between Ben Gurion Airport and Qatar in order to enable football fans to reach the Arab country without the need for a connecting flight, in advance of the 2022 World Cup.
Thousands of Israelis have already purchased tickets for the matches to be held between November 19 and December 18 of this year, Israel Hayom reports, and an estimated total of 15 thousand Israelis who won the special Israeli lottery for the purchase of tickets are expected to travel out to Qatar. Another lottery is also due to be held at a later point in time, and those fans who miss out there will still be able to buy tickets from dedicated agents.
Israel and Qatar do not have official diplomatic relations and there are currently no direct flights between the two countries. In the absence of direct flights, Israelis wishing to make their way to Qatar do so via Turkey, Cyprus, or Jordan, but the total traveling time in such cases is between seven and ten hours, rather than just three were the flight to be direct.
With the World Cup approaching, senior defense officials in Israel have proposed initiating direct flights, for reasons which go beyond the event in question. According to officials, the existence of direct flights between Israel and Qatar would lead to closer ties between the two countries. Currently, ties do exist but contacts are kept secret due to the diplomatic implications. Instituting direct flights, however, would necessitate an open presence of Israeli officials in Doha, the capital of the Arab state, as well as open channels of communication between the two countries.