When Will America, Israel Realize Qatar Is a Big Part of the Problem?

That’s the question as the top leadership in the Biden administration cozies up to Hamas’s benefactors at Doha.

Vyacheslav Prokofyev, Sputnik, Kremlin pool via AP, file
The prime minister of Qatar, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, during a meeting at Astana, Kazakhstan, October 13, 2022. Vyacheslav Prokofyev, Sputnik, Kremlin pool via AP, file

When will it start to dawn on America and Israel that Qatar is a big part of the problem that led the Mideast to war, rather than the solution? The question is relevant as Doha launches a renewed campaign to bolster its image as the region’s good guy.

Last week, a group of mostly Jewish businessmen quietly met at New York with Qatar’s prime minister and foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Axios reports. That meeting was organized by a former White House aide, Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law. His  private equity firm reportedly received significant Qatari investment.

For decades Qatar has lavished funds on bipartisan causes, including universities, think tanks, and opinion shapers. Since the early 2000s, Washington has repaid Doha in kind. In a phone call with Sheikh Mohammed, Secretary Blinken on Sunday “reiterated his gratitude for Qatar’s partnership and critical efforts to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas and enable the recent humanitarian pause in Gaza,” according to the Department of State. 

As the Biden administration increasingly airs in public its disagreements with Israel over Gaza, it lavishes praise on Qatar. “Israel must do more to protect innocent civilians,” Vice President Harris harrumphed over the weekend while visiting Dubai, adding that America will seek further Gaza war pauses “in close cooperation with Qatar.”

Those pauses, while hostages were released, ended last week when a Mossad delegation abruptly left Doha. “The Israelis got what they could out of this channel,” a vice president at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Jonathan Schanzer, tells the Sun. “Now you might start seeing assassination” of Hamas’s operatives living at Doha.

Over the weekend, the chief of Israel’s internal security agency, Ronen Bar, said that killing Hamas leaders is “our Munich,” a reference to the operation to assassinate all participants in the 1972 Olympic massacre. “We will seek them anywhere,” he said. “In Gaza, Judea and Samaria, Lebanon, Turkey, Qatar: It might take a few years, but we will do it.” 

It was the first public acknowledgment that Hamas’s leaders can no longer feel safe in their Doha lairs. In the past, only a few Israelis, like the president of the Middle East Media Research Institute, Yigal Carmon, have considered Qatar an enemy. “Qatar is Hamas and Hamas is Qatar,” Mr. Carmon tells the Sun. 

America must use its leverage, he adds, citing the largest American military installation in the region, Al-Udeid, as an example. “People say Qatar is doing America a favor by hosting the base,” Mr. Carmon says. “The opposite is true. If America pulls out, Qatar’s neighbors will swallow it within a week.”

Qatar has long argued that America and Israel have asked it to fund Gaza. During a Doha visit a few years ago, a senior Qatari official told the Sun that every penny for Gaza goes to hospitals, roads, and welfare, and that Israelis get assurances that none of it funds Hamas’s military activities. 

Israelis no longer buy that assertion. Qatar “has been funding civilian operations in Gaza for many years,” a former national security adviser to Prime Minister Bennett, Eyal Hulata, told Mr. Schanzer. “Unfortunately they were also funding military operations, the military branch.”

Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, two years after Israel pulled out all forces and settlements. Unlike most Arab regimes’ aversion to the Muslim Brotherhood, which spawned Hamas, Doha supported the takeover, and its emir became the only Arab leader to visit Gaza.

As other Arab leaders tried to fend off Islamist militants during the so-called Arab Spring, Qatar’s Al Jazeera became a cheerleader for militant Islam, and Doha started funding Hamas in Gaza. After the IDF’s Operation Protective Edge ended in 2014, America, Israel, and the United Nations decided to authorize Qatari humanitarian funding for Gaza. 

Prime Minister Netanyahu now says he supported that deal to avert a humanitarian collapse in Gaza. Yet, it also allowed Hamas to lull Israel into thinking that its main goal is welfare in the Strip, an illusion that was put paid to on October 7. 

Doha’s Hamas financing was also far from transparent. According to the 2014 agreement, Qatar would transfer $30 million to Gaza monthly to finance hospitals, schools, and welfare. Yet, according to today’s Axios article, Sheikh Mohammed told the businessmen he met at New York that in the last five years Qatar transferred “billions of dollars” to Gaza. “There was no oversight at all over the funds,” Mr. Carmon says. 

Before the week-long truce in Gaza was launched, the IDF raided the Qatari consulate near Shifa hospital at Gaza City. “I hope they are sharing the intelligence they dug up there with Washington,” the FDD’s Mr. Schanzer says.

In 2022, President Biden conferred on Qatar the status of “major non-NATO ally.” Now, as a former Israeli national security adviser, Meir Ben Shabat, wrote recently, it’s time for America to consider replacing it “with a designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.” 

Correction: Al-Udeid is the name of the largest American military installation in the region. The name was incorrect in an earlier version.

The New York Sun

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