The date had been fixed for a long time: the Emir’s trip from Qatar to Germany. After Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel, it naturally took on a completely different meaning. The German head of government visited the Emir in Doha last year to discuss deliveries of liquefied natural gas (LNG). However, there was only a contract months later – and LNG from 2026 onwards.
This time too, the German Chancellor and his Foreign Minister asked the ruler of the small Gulf state for help: for the German citizens kidnapped by the Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip. Qatar has had close contacts for years with the terrorist group that controls the entire Gaza Strip and has also taken it hostage. The desert state also has sufficient trust from the Israeli government, which hopes that Qatari mediators can help free the hostages held by the Islamists. However, criticism of Qatar is now growing in Israel. Several experts accused the emirate of helping to rebuild Gaza, but in reality primarily of arming Hamas.
The political leadership of Hamas, the 15-member Politburo chaired by Ismail Haniya, has been residing in Doha since 2012, in stately villas financed by the Emir. The real leader of the group founded by the Muslim Brotherhood in 1987 is Jahia Sinwar, who spent 24 years of his life in Israeli prisons. He is the main liaison to the military wing, the Qassam Brigades under the command of Mohammed Deif. They are said to have kidnapped around 100 people alone, possibly a few more. Terrorists from Islamic Jihad, a smaller militant group from the Gaza Strip backed largely by Iran, claim to have taken 30 more hostages. In addition, since the Gaza war in 2012, Qatar has invested large sums in the Palestinian exclave on the Mediterranean, which has been under authoritarian rule by Hamas since 2007, initially for reconstruction and aid supplies. From 2018 onwards, the emirate subsidized the Gaza Strip with $30 to $40 million per month, paid salaries of Hamas government employees in roughly equal parts, gave $100 in support to 100,000 destitute families and paid the bills for the only diesel-powered power plant in the area Area in which, according to the UN, 2.1 million people live on 360 square kilometers.
Immediately following her conversation with the Qatari ruler, German Foreign Minister Baerbock dampened expectations: She said she did not presume to say from outside that a solution was available. The German government can only act together with the Israeli government and other partners. This was also be a topic in the discussions with the Emir. Not only Germany, but also the USA had asked Qatar to mediate on the hostage issue. “Qatar has access to Hamas that we certainly don’t have and that the Israelis don’t have either,” said the spokesman for the National Security Council in the White House. The German Chancellery announced that the fate of the hostages kidnapped by Hamas, including German nationals, was a focus of the conversation with the Emir. Scholz emphasized that Hamas has full responsibility for the well-being of the hostages.
Qatar’s financial and logistical support for Islamist terrorists is often accused of sponsoring Hamas’ terror. However, the Emir’s emissaries brought the money to the Gaza Strip with the approval of the Israeli government – they flew in with suitcases full of dollar bills via Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport and crossed the border into the Palestinian territory, which the Israeli army had completely evacuated in 2005. at the official crossing Erez. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in particular hoped that this would create a certain degree of economic stability in the Gaza Strip and thus calm Hamas – other politicians sharply criticized this tactic. After military conflicts, payments were repeatedly suspended and at times they were processed without cash.
The emir is also confronted internationally with the question of how he wants to shape his relationship with Hamas in the future after Hamas’s massacre of more than 1,000 civilians. The assessment, long held in Doha that Hamas was a fundamentally pragmatic organization, has been proven to be a fatal mistake by the bloodbath.
In its first statement, the Foreign Ministry in Qatar blamed Israel alone for the escalation of violence because of its “ongoing violations of the rights of the Palestinian people” and Israeli police operations at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem – which in turn raises questions, whether the emir is not just a mediator but shares Hamas’ ideology. As the extent of the atrocities became clearer, the Emit-controlled government backed down.
The mediation attempts to free the kidnapped Israeli women, men and children are likely to be the most important argument not to throw the Hamas leadership out of the desert for the time being: any even small success could ease the international pressure on Qatar, and the emirate could even benefit from it in the long term. The Foreign Ministry in Doha publicized efforts to negotiate an exchange of the women and children kidnapped in the Gaza Strip for 36 Palestinian women imprisoned in Israel, whose release Hamas is trying to blackmail.
So it’s a fine line that Qatar is currently walking on. Not only has the long-standing support of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood permanently damaged the emirate’s reputation among the governments of other Arab states, but the obvious contact with the terrorist arm Hamas did the rest. The emirate played an equally important role in international negotiations with the Taliban, as leading representatives of the Afghan Islamists also found shelter in Doha before they took control again in Kabul. So Doha knows its role on the international stage, despite obvious criticism from the West. The Emirate knows, similar to the other Hamas supporter Erdogan in Turkey, that the propaganda battle over the situation in Gaza and beyond will be won by the population, especially within the Islamic world. And this is where the Hamas sponsors are scoring points, and not the governments in Cairo, Amman, Abu Dhabi or Riyadh.
All publishing rights and copyrights reserved to MENA Research Center.