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Israeli national anthem played in Abu Dhabi as Sagi Muki clinches gold

Sagi Muki

Israeli athlete Sagi Muki won a gold medal on Monday in the 2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Slam Judo World Tournament.

Muki came in first in the 81 kilogram weight class after defeating Belgium’s Matthias Casse in the final match of the tournament.

The Israeli athlete was presented with the gold medal and then stood alongside second and third place as Israel’s national anthem played for the first time at a public sporting event in the United Arab Emirates.

In April, Muki won gold in the 2018 European Championship in Judo after defeating Sami Chouchi from Belgium in the final.

AP Photo/Ariel Schalit

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev's presence in the United Arab Emirates capital Abu Dhabi marked the first time a minister from Israel attended a sports event in the Gulf, Israeli officials said.

It is also the first time an Israeli delegation participates there under its national flag, after the International Judo Federation warned UAE organizers they would cancel the competition unless all athletes were allowed to participate on an equal footing.

Last year, tournament organizers in Abu Dhabi banned the flag and national anthem of Israel, which has no diplomatic relations with Gulf states.

"I'm very proud to be here in Abu Dhabi representing Israel along with the judo team and our flag," Regev wrote on her Facebook page.

"I hope we win a gold medal and experience the thrilling moment of playing Hatikvah in the Abu Dhabi arena," she said, referring to Israel's national anthem.

Three Israeli judokas won bronze medals on Saturday, the first day of the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam, with Regev given the honor of awarding the medals for one of the categories.

Regev's trip to the UAE, which began on Thursday, coincided with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to neighboring Oman, the first for an Israeli leader since 1996.

- (Omani Royal Palace/AFP)

On the same day, an Israeli gymnastics delegation was in Qatar for the beginning of the world championships being held in Doha.

And on Monday, Communications Minister Ayoob Kara was to travel to Dubai to represent Israel at an international internet security conference, his office said.

Israel currently has full diplomatic relations with only two Arab states, Egypt and Jordan.

Netanyahu has long sought a rapprochement with other Arab states.

Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory, however, remains a major obstacle to official recognition from Arab countries.

Speaking of his Oman visit at a cabinet meeting Sunday, Netanyahu said it was thanks to his "diplomatic efforts" in the Arab world, adding: "There will be more."


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