Avigdor Liberman (L) Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani (R).
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/REUTERS)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman secretly met with Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani in Cyprus in late June to discuss the Gaza Strip, Walla!News reported on Wednesday.
According to the report, which cited a senior Israeli official, the meeting took place on the sidelines of talks Liberman was holding with the Cypriot and Greek defense ministers about the possibility of constructing a seaport for Gaza as part of long-term cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.
Last week Channel 10 reported Liberman met with Qatar’s Gaza envoy Mohammed al-Emadi in Cyprus, but according to the senior Israeli official quoted by Walla!News, Emadi is frequently in Israel, and a meeting with him in Cyprus was not necessary.
According to the official, it would be “certainly possible and necessary” for Liberman to travel abroad to meet with Thani.
The secret meeting between Liberman and Thani comes as Israel and Hamas leaders consider cease-fire proposals.
On July 17, Emadi told Al Jazeera that there was talk about a five- to 10-year cease-fire between the two sides.
“Hamas and Israel reached a tacit understanding to keep their military confrontation at low intensity and avoid a full-scale war,” he said, stressing that “it [would be] very difficult to fund the reconstruction of Gaza in [the] event of yet another destructive war.”
According to one report by Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen TV, a long-term deal would include not only the seaport in Cyprus
, but a cargo shipping connection between the island nation and Gaza, with Israel securing the vessels. Qatar would also cover the costs of Gaza’s electricity bills in cooperation with Israel, and the salaries of civil service employees in cooperation with Egypt.
While Israel and Qatar used to have frequent meetings between high-level foreign ministers, ties deteriorated during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009. The relationship deteriorated even further when Doha prioritized its relations with Hamas and allowed the terrorist group’s leadership to base itself in the capital.
As a supporter of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, Qatar has been actively involved in Gaza, investing close to $500 million in various rehabilitation projects for the coastal enclave.
Doha has also tried to mediate between Israel and Hamas over the issue of missing Israeli soldiers and civilians held by the terrorist group in the Strip.
Gazans have been protesting along the border with Israel since March 30 as part of what organizers have called the “Great March of Return.” Demonstrators have been throwing stones, Molotov cocktails and rocks toward Israeli troops and flying incendiary kites, condoms and balloons into Israeli territory, destroying over 1,000 hectares of forest, nature reserves and agricultural fields.
Two weeks ago saw another round of fighting between Israel and Hamas, where over 200 rockets and mortars were fired from the coastal enclave toward southern Israeli communities within a 24-hour period and over 150 retaliatory strikes were carried out by Israeli jets.
While there has since been relative calm on Israel’s southern border, IDF troops on Monday exchanged fire with a Palestinian who opened fire at them in the northern Gaza Strip. No soldiers were hurt in the incident.
In early August Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas went to Doha for a two-day visit, meeting with Thani and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani to discuss the latest developments in the region, including cease-fire efforts between Hamas and Israel and Palestinian unity.
Abbas was accompanied by Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization; Hussein al-Sheikh, a member of the Fatah Central Committee and head of the Civil Affairs Authority; Gen. Majed Faraj, head of the General Intelligence; and Munir Ghannam, the Palestinian Ambassador to Qatar.
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