There are already three Arab states that have signed for peace and have established diplomatic relations with Israel. After Egypt, in 1979 and Jordan, in 1994, the United Arab Emirates has stamped its signature on this select club. In return, Israel renounces annexation of the West Bank.
All this, with the usual exceptions of staunch pessimists and hopeless enemies, constitutes a crucial stage in the normalisation of relations between Israel and its neighbours.
The agreement was announced on Thursday 13th August, with great fanfare from the President of the United States, Donald Trump and has been well received by Western governments and the international press. However, when we address the topic of the pioneers, those who encouraged this rapprochement, those who inspired and promoted an agreement that, at that time, seemed if not impossible, at least extremely complicated, it is necessary to talk about judo.
It was judo, through the president of the International Federation, Mr Marius L. Vizer and its treasurer, the Emirati Naser Al Tamimi, who undertook the conquest of the implausible. In November 2018, Abu Dhabi organised its now traditional Grand Slam, a key part of the World Judo Tour. For those who remember the event, no-one was willing to sound the national anthem of Israel, or to wave the flag in the event of the victory of one of its members.
That was without counting on the perseverance of two men. The first, Marius Vizer, because he fought hard for the Emirati authorities to reserve the Israeli delegation the same treatment as all others. The second, Naser Al Tamimi, because his heritage and reputation were at stake and he undoubtedly earned the odd enemy, by mediating between the International Federation, of which he is treasurer and the authorities of his own country, where he resides with his family and where he works.
They were months of many pressures, of a pulse between the correct and the standard. In silence, without agitating the media or organising propaganda campaigns, it was a low-key but tough diplomatic fight. Judo and its spirit won and until today the world has not offered thanks properly for the Herculean work of Marius Vizer and Naser Al Tamimi. Nor do they demand it, because they were simply the guardians of the values of our sport. True modesty, discipline and respect allowed the inconceivable to happen on the afternoon of 28th October 2018.
Sagi Muki, Israel’s current world champion, won the gold medal in the -81kg category. The hosts wanted to get it right until the end, so they invited the Israeli Sports Minister of that time, Miri Regev, to hand over the precious metal to Muki. Now there was only the climax, listening to the anthem as if it were any other, calmly and normally, although the moment was truly historic. It rang loudly and for the first time, drawing tears of joyous emotion among those present, beginning with the minister and ending with Marius Vizer himself.
That was history, and we are proud of that, especially now. Judo smashed down the walls of misunderstanding and anger and for that we want to congratulate the signatories of the agreement from here. If Donald Trump wishes to appropriate the success and paternity of the gestation of the pact, it seems great to us because, after all, Trump himself organised an international judo tournament in Florida a few years ago, before he was ever a candidate for the White House. Maybe he drew on memories, maybe our values were a source of inspiration. In any case, his mediation has been decisive. But, if you allow us an ephemeral exercise of false modesty, we claim our share in this historic development.