Israel has not launched a full-court diplomatic campaign against Qatar for aiding and abetting terrorism because of concern that the closeness of US-Qatar ties would render such a campaign futile, according to a senior diplomatic official.
The official’s comments came a day after the New York Times published an op-ed piece by Ron Prosor, Ambassador to the UN, calling Qatar the “Club Med for Terrorists.”
“In recent years, the sheikhs of Doha, Qatar’s capital, have funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to Gaza,” Prosor wrote. “Every one of Hamas’s tunnels and rockets might as well have had a sign that read ‘Made possible through a kind donation from the Emir of Qatar.’” Even though that is the case, and even as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu continues to raise Qatar’s negative role in private meetings with US congressman and world leaders, the senior diplomatic official said that there is no concerted campaign that has been accompanied by directives to Israel’s representatives abroad, to underline Qatar’s singularly negative role in supporting terrorism in general and in the Gaza crisis in particular. Prosor’s piece, he said, was the envoy’s own “improvisation” and not part of a bigger Israeli diplomatic push against the Persian Gulf country.
Qatar is too big an ally of the US and the West, the official said and any such campaign would be tantamount to “banging our heads against the wall.”
He said Jerusalem is not interested in going “toe-to-toe“ with Washington over the issue.
Qatar is home to the US Central Command’s Forward Headquarters and the Combined Air Operations Center, and is the location of three US air bases, including its largest one in the Middle East. It recently signed contracts to purchase some $11 billion in US arms and weapons systems.
Nevertheless, Netanyahu – in a meeting last week with US Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California) – did raise the subject of Qatar’s support of Hamas. As chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Issa is in a prime position to put Qatar’s role high on the agenda in Washington.
However, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, in an interview earlier this month with The Jerusalem Post, cautioned against exaggerating the leverage Qatar has over the terrorist organization.
Qatar was hosting Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Doha, and funding them handsomely, to ensure that they only operate outside its borders, Liberman said. He characterized this as Qatar paying for protection from the terrorist organization.
“It is paying protection money in order to ensure security and quiet and calm inside Qatar, so they would work only outside,” he said. “I don’t know how much they are able to influence Hamas. I think Hamas has more influence on Qatar, than Qatar does on Hamas.”
Prosor, known for his sarcasm, wrote in the Times, after mentioning the tiny country’s petrol billions, that “it is time for the world to wake up and smell the gas fumes. Qatar has spared no cost to dress up its country as a liberal, progressive society, yet at its core, the micro monarchy is aggressively financing radical Islamist movements.”
He said that the “petite petrol kingdom” needed to be isolated internationally.
“In light of the emirate’s unabashed support for terrorism, one has to question FIFA’s decision to reward Qatar with the 2022 World Cup,” he said, stopping just short of launching a campaign to strip Qatar of the right to host the marquee soccer event.
Given Qatar’s alliances and influence, Prosor wrote, the prospect for many western countries of isolating Qatar is “uncomfortable.” Yet, he added, “they must recognize that Qatar is not a part of the solution but a significant part of the problem. To bring about a sustained calm, the message to Qatar should be clear: Stop financing Hamas.”