The rupture in relations between Qatar and a number of its Arab neighbors could hurt Hamas, a Palestinian expert said Tuesday.
“Assuming that the Arab states continue to pressure Qatar, Hamas could lose the different forms of political, financial and logistical support it receives from Qatar,” said Ghassan Khatib, a vice president of Bir Zeit University. “That would be really bad news for Hamas.” The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain officially cut ties with Qatar on Sunday, announcing a series of measures against Doha. Some of the measures include expelling Qatari diplomats and citizens and closing airspace to Qatar Airways.The four Arab states say Qatar is responsible for funding extremist groups, including Islamic State and al-Qaida. Qatar denies any backing to the groups. The four Arab states also contend that Qatar is close to their greatest adversary, Iran.According to Khatib, the four Arab states see Hamas as an extension of the Muslim Brotherhood, which they have designated a terrorist group.“If the pressure continues, Qatar most probably would have to make some adjustments regarding its support for Hamas,” he said.Qatar is one of Hamas’s staunchest allies.It has sent millions of dollars to Gaza to support Hamas’s governance efforts, including hundreds of millions for reconstruction and millions for the energy sector. When Gazans took to the streets to protest Hamas’s handling of an electricity crisis last winter, Qatar sent $12 million to Gaza for needed fuel, effectively bailing out Hamas.Qatar has also served as the headquarters of Hamas’s diaspora leadership, hosting a number of its most senior leaders including, former Hamas politburo chairman Khaled Mashaal and his aides.Hamas spokesmen have not responded to the deterioration in ties between Qatar and the Arab states.For its part, the Palestinian Authority has refrained from addressing the issue publicly except for a brief statement by Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki in Tunis on Monday.“What happened saddens us. We hope that the wise and rational voices will be able to bring these brotherly states back together,” Maliki told a press conference alongside Tunisian Foreign Minister Khemaies Jhinaoui.Despite Maliki’s comments calling for a resolution, Khatib said the pressure on Qatar is “indirectly playing into the hands of the Palestinian leadership” and its strategy against Hamas.The PA has taken a number of measures to pressure Hamas to cede control of the Gaza Strip in the past several weeks. In May, PA leaders informed Israel that it only wants to pay for some 64% of electricity Israel transfers to Gaza.
Saudi says Qatar must implement "promises made" over extremist groups (credit: REUTERS)