The United Arab Emirates' top judo official has apologized to his Israeli counterpart after Emirati judokas refused to shake hands with their Israeli opponents at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam judo tournament.
Mohammad bin Thaloub al-Darei, the president of the UAE's Judo Federation, and Aref al-Awani, the general secretary of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, "apologized because of the UAE athletes' not shaking hands with the Israel athletes," said International Judo Federation (IJF) President Marius Vizer.
They "also congratulated the Israel team for their success here," Vizer said of the three-day event which ended on Saturday.
A day earlier, UAE's Rashad Almashjari had refused to shake hands with Israeli Tohar Butbul in the first round of the men's lightweight category (66-73 kg). Butbul went on to win bronze.
Ordinary Arabs are wary of their leaders' increasing outreach to Israel in recent years and their attempts to anesthetize the public to a possible normalization with Tel Aviv.
Back in March, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his regime's relations with regional Arab countries were "dramatically warming" after reports of secret contacts.
In July, Netanyahu hailed the "breakthrough" in ties with Arab countries, claiming "many levels of cooperation" existed that could not yet be exposed to the public.
Hebrew-language Israeli daily Maariv reported in October that Israeli and Emirati businessmen had secretly brokered arms deals. Israeli businessman Metai Kokhafi, it said, had hired a private plane to fly his colleagues and generals to the UAE capital to discuss the terms of the weapons agreements.
Meanwhile, the Sunday Times cited unnamed Arab and American sources as saying in June that Saudi Arabia and Israel were in clandestine talks to establish official economic relations for the first time.