Arab soccer fans at the first World Cup in the Middle East are shunning Israeli journalists in Qatar trying to interview them, illustrating challenges facing wider "warm peace" ambitions two years after some Gulf states forged formal ties with Israel.
Israeli officials have voiced hope that the U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords reached with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in 2020, and later Sudan and Morocco, would spur further normalisation, including with Arab heavyweight Saudi Arabia.
Interview attempts with Arab fans, however, fell flat with reporters from public broadcaster Kan and top-rated Channel 12 TV shared they had been mostly snubbed. Footage circulating online showed two Saudi fans, a Qatari shopper and three Lebanese fans walking away from Israeli reporters.
A Channel 13 reporter said Palestinian fans held an impromptu protest next to him, waving their and flags and chanting "go home".
Qatar does not officially recognise Israel, setting Palestinian statehood as a condition for that. But it has allowed direct flights from Tel Aviv for the World Cup as well as a delegation of Israeli diplomats to handle logistics.
The delegation spokesperson said there had been no reports of ill-treatment of the estimated 10,000 to 20,000 Israeli fans. But he acknowledged "a few incidents" involving Israeli media.
Saudi national Khaled al-Omri, who works in the oil industry and was in Qatar to support his home team, said he hoped the Tel Aviv-Doha flight route would not become permanent.
"Sure, most countries in the Arab world are heading towards normalisation – but that's because most of them don't have rulers who listen to their people," he said.