Next Year in Tel Aviv: Israel to Host Judo Grand Prix Event

(Bloomberg) -- Israel signed an agreement to host its first-ever judo Grand Prix event, the same week that athletes from the Jewish state were allowed to compete for the first time under their own flag in a competition in the Persian Gulf.

Israel’s Sports and Culture Minister Miri Regev attended the competition in Abu Dhabi, where Israeli athletes wore their national flag and “Hatikvah,” the national anthem, was played when an Israeli won gold in his weight class. In previous years Arab host nations have forced Israeli athletes to compete without any national identifiers, and would not play the anthem when Israelis won.

Regev signed the agreement with the International Judo Federation to host a Grand Prix event in Tel Aviv in January. The sports minister was seen shedding tears as Hatikvah was played for the Israeli medal winner.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a surprise visit to Oman last week, the first official trip by an Israeli leader since 1996. Israel’s ties with Persian Gulf states have warmed in recent years over a shared distrust of Iran and its push for regional hegemony. In addition, Gulf countries are gradually making gestures to accept Israel, prodded by the U.S. administration and their desire to participate in international activities that forbid them from barring United Nations member states.

Arab states went to war to prevent the creation of Israel in 1948, and most have continued to shun the Jewish state out of solidarity with the Palestinians. Israel has signed peace agreements with two of its neighbors, Egypt and Jordan, but those countries have sought to keep ties distant and their citizens largely oppose “normalization” of ties with Israel.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.