Peer pulls off diplomatic coup

Peer pulls off diplomatic coup

DUBAI - Agence France-Presse
Peer pulls off diplomatic coup

Shahar Peer returns the ball to Oman’s Fatma al-Nabhani during a Dubai WTA Open match. Peer is the first Israeli female athlete to compete in the United Arab Emirates.

Shahar Peer, the first Israeli female athlete to compete in the United Arab Emirates, is making another piece of diplomatic history here this week.

Peer caused a political tremor two years ago when, after much wrangling and fiercely strict security arrangements, she was eventually allowed to enter the Dubai Open.

Her admission was preceded by a convoluted refusal to grant her a UAE visa in 2009; this year, by contrast, Peer has actually been invited to take part in the tournament.

The offer indicates that her courage, persistence and inspirational on-court efforts, have become regarded as valuable pioneering ingredients in Arab-Israeli relations.

“I think it’s an amazing gesture,” Peer said. “It’s not something that you just think is going to come naturally. So it’s an overcome [sic] for them and I really appreciate it,” she added, meaning that there were obstacles to overcome for the decision.

Amongst them are the organization of living, changing and dining facilities separate from other players, a designated and protected outside court for all Peer’s matches, bodyguards, and, in the past at least, snipers hidden in strategic locations.

“I really appreciate them coming forward and giving this to me,” Peer added. “I think we’re doing amazing things here in the last few years, so I think it’s very good for everybody.”

Her presence in Dubai has both been good for cultural and political progress in the Middle East, and excellent public relations for a possible Dubai Olympic bid in 2024.