Qatar and Hamas have had a relationship for years. The political arm of the terrorist organization cooperates with the Gulf emirate on more than just a financial basis. Especially after the brutal attack by the Islamists in Israel on October 7th, this unholy alliance has acquired global relevance.
Relations between the military wing of the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar are complex and include political, diplomatic and financial aspects. Qatar has supported Hamas politically by promoting its positions in international forums. This includes defending the rights of Palestinians and criticizing Israeli actions in Gaza before October 7, 2023. Hamas maintains a political office in Qatar, which serves as a key platform for the organization’s diplomatic activities. From this office, Hamas holds talks with representatives of other states and organizations to further its political goals. The emirate has provided financial support to Hamas, both in the form of direct payments and by financing infrastructure projects in the Gaza Strip. Officially, these funds were used to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Critics, however, believe that much of Qatar’s funding served only to enable Hamas to use force against Israel. What is clear, however, is that the support has sustainably strengthened Hamas’s political power in Gaza.
Many aspects of this alliance were also made in agreement with Israel: Although there are no official diplomatic relations, Israel has allowed the transfer of humanitarian and financial aid from Qatar to the Gaza Strip under certain conditions. This humanitarian assistance often included medical care and the construction of infrastructure projects. At the same time, Qatar has occasionally acted as an intermediary between Israel and Hamas, particularly during times of heightened tension or military conflict in the Gaza Strip. These efforts were aimed at achieving a de-escalation of violence and a ceasefire. However, Israel has often reacted skeptically to Qatar’s role as a mediator.
It is important to emphasize that this cooperation is limited and depends on the respective political interests and priorities of the two countries. Despite occasional cooperation, official relations between Israel and Qatar remain strained.
In the kidnappings of Israelis by Hamas, Qatar acted as an intermediary between the terrorist militia and other actors in the Middle East conflict, including Israel and the Palestinian Authority. On the one hand, these mediation efforts are aimed at freeing the hostages, but experts also repeatedly point out that the emir in the Gulf state is primarily concerned with not appearing to support terrorism. It is more beneficial for the country to act as an international mediator. Relations with Israel should also not be permanently destroyed. This is also the reason why Qatar has refrained from verbally attacking the government of Israel in its military actions in Gaza in recent weeks. But this now seems to be over.
Now there was a very official outburst of anger, which was taken over by Foreign Ministry spokesman Majed al-Ansari: “We are appalled by the alleged statements attributed to the Israeli Prime Minister in various media reports about Qatar’s mediating role,” he wrote. “If these statements are confirmed, they are irresponsible and destructive to efforts to save innocent lives, but they are not surprising.” If the reported statements prove true, “the Israeli prime minister would only obstruct and undermine the mediation process, and „although for reasons that appear to serve his political career rather than prioritizing the rescue of innocent people, including Israeli hostages.”
Audio recordings of a meeting with relatives of hostages were leaked on Israeli television, in which Netanyahu portrayed Qatar’s role in the negotiations as “problematic.” He therefore made it clear that he would like to see more “pressure” from Washington on Qatar. Most recently, Netanyahu was “very angry with the Americans” because they had extended their military presence in Doha by ten years. In the Qatari capital Doha, the indiscretion and Netanyahu’s criticism are perceived as a diversionary tactic and an attempt to find a scapegoat.
However, efforts to broker a new deal between Israel and Hamas should not suffer as a result. “But we will not jeopardize mediation because of problems with individuals; we have never allowed such personal matters to affect our mediation efforts,” said a senior Qatari government official. “This is about saving the lives of hostages and Palestinian civilians, not about politicians.”
At the end of last year, the director of Israel’s foreign intelligence agency Mossad met with the Qatari head of government to revive the hostage negotiations that were broken off in early December. However, Hamas does not want to give up the leverage that the hostages offer in the current situation in Gaza. According to press reports, the Palestinian Islamists demanded guarantees.
Furthermore, a quick success in the negotiations cannot be expected. “Perhaps the situation will change once the Israeli military operation in Khan Yunis is completed,” a diplomat briefed on the progress of the talks said a few weeks ago. However, Netanyahu’s government does not seem to be thinking about stopping the attacks in Gaza. He recently announced that further military operations would begin in Rafah. Netanyahu remains determined to continue the war until Hamas is destroyed. “We will fight – and we will win,” he repeats again and again. As the hostages’ relatives become increasingly impatient, Netanyahu also feels increasingly under pressure to justify his actions. He repeatedly tries to convey the image to his own people that Hamas alone is responsible for the stalling of the negotiations.
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