NEW YORK (JTA) — Israel would be allowed to participate in the World Cup if Qatar hosts in 2022, the chief executive of the country’s bid said.
Hassan Abdulla Al Thawadi, responding in an interview Tuesday with Reuters to the question about Israel’s participation in the soccer world’s flagship event, said that "All nations participating in the FIFA World Cup are welcome.”
Qatar, an Arab emirate on the Persian Gulf, like other Arab nations does not recognize the legitimacy of the State of Israel.
Should Qatar win the bid to host the monthlong World Cup, it would be the first major international sporting event hosted in the Middle East.
"We’ve got a bid that allows history to be made in different aspects, [like] opening up the gates between the East and the West to sit and communicate," Thawadi told Reuters.
Since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Israel has qualified only once for the FIFA World Cup — in 1970. Israel was eliminated after tying Sweden and Italy, then losing to Uruguay.
Last February, the United Arab Emirates rejected Israeli tennis champion Shahar Pe’er’s request for a visa to play in the Dubai Tennis Championships just days before the start of the competition. In protest, The Tennis Channel network canceled its broadcast of the tournament, and The Wall Street Journal European edition withdrew its sponsorship of the event.