Indonesia, a Muslim-majority country, has finally granted a visa to an Israeli athlete for the world championship games, ending a months-long impasse. 

Indonesia has finally granted an Israeli badminton player a visa to enter the country to compete in the world championships in Jakarta after a months-long standoff, the Olympic Committee of Israel (OCI) announced on Monday.

Misha Zilberman, 26, has been cleared to enter Indonesia — the world’s most populous Muslim country — after being repeatedly denied a visa because he is Israeli.

OCI secretary general Gili Lustig said Zilberman had been waiting in Singapore for two weeks after making an initial visa application six months ago. The Badminton World Federation (BWF) intervened to ensure Zilberman would secure the visa, he added.

Zilberman was scheduled to fly from Singapore to Jakarta on Monday accompanied by his mother, also a badminton player, as well as the CEO of the Badminton World Federation, Lustig said. Zilberman is set to compete on Tuesday.

Lustig said the visa delay had prevented Zilberman from properly training for the championships.

‘An Ambassador for Israeli Sport’

“But for us it’s a big victory that he will be there,” he stated. “Now he’s an ambassador for Israeli sport.”

In a post on his Facebook page on August 3, before being granted the visa, Zilberman voiced his dismay with the original denial.

“They won’t give me a visa to participate in the world championship!!” he wrote. “After six months of exchanging letters, and after sending all the documents they requested, and after we arrived in Singapore, they are saying no.”

Israel does not have formal diplomatic relations with Indonesia nor with many other Muslim-majority countries, some of which had denied Israeli and Arab-Israeli athletes visas to compete.

Zilberman competed in the 2012 London Olympics, the first Israeli badminton player to represent his country at the games. He has won numerous badminton competitions in Israel, including mixed doubles with his mother, who is also his coach.

Keeping Politics and Sport Separate

“We are glad that this matter has been resolved and that Misha Zilberman can now compete in the World Badminton Championships in Jakarta,” said World Jewish Congress (WJC) CEO Robert Singer, who issued a statement last week calling for the Indonesian government to grant the Israeli athlete a visa.

“On behalf of the World Jewish Congress, I would like to thank the Indonesian authorities who granted him the entry visa, as well as all those who worked for a resolution of this matter. We believe that it is important that politics and sport are kept separate as much as possible.

“As a matter of course, athletes who have qualified for an international sporting event should be allowed to travel and take part in it, regardless of the country they represent,” said Singer.

By: AP