Voices from the Arab press: Qatar's hypocrisy exposed yet again

A weekly selection of opinions and analyses from the Arab media around the world.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds up part of Iranian drone that landed in Israel in February 2018 at the Munich Security Conference, February 18, 2018 (photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds up part of Iranian drone that landed in Israel in February 2018 at the Munich Security Conference, February 18, 2018
(photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
Asharq al-Awsat, London, February 17
Not that we needed more proof, but the Qatari government has once again demonstrated just how hypocritical it is.
Last week, Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah made a state visit to Palestine, during which he visited Jerusalem’s Al-Aksa Mosque. Just minutes after Alawi left the site, the Qatari media went wild and criticized the minister for “normalizing” ties with Israel. Qatari news channels slammed Arab regimes for “cooperating with the enemy” and “abandoning the Palestinian cause,” among other accusations and slurs.
To those who know a thing or two about the Qatari stance on Palestine, this seemed absolutely ridiculous. It is Doha, after all, which has over the past decade engaged with Israeli officials at all levels of government. Yet, concurrently, Qatari spokesmen have blatantly castigated anyone daring to do the same. Qatari television berated the Egyptian mufti, for example, when he visited Jerusalem in 2012.
Meanwhile, Oman – the target of these latest accusations – has maintained an open and transparent line of communication with Israel without making excuses. An Israeli Trade Office even existed in Muscat until the outbreak of the Second Intifada. But Omani officials did not incite against other Arab states for choosing to engage in trade with Tel Aviv. The shame is not in interacting with Israelis, but, rather, in holding others to a different standard.
As for Alawi, the minister repeatedly explained that Arab leaders should not comment on the Palestinian issue from the comfort of their lavish conference rooms back home. Instead, they should visit the occupied Palestinian territories in order to experience the conditions on the ground firsthand. This is exactly what the Omani minister did, and what Qatar so miserably has failed to understand.
– Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Al-Ittihad, UAE, February 16
It seems as though more and more global leaders have been neglecting the fact that the primary victims of terrorism are, in fact, those living in the Arab world. While Arab nations have been at the forefront of the fight against terrorism, they receive very little, if any, credit for their efforts.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, for example, have worked tirelessly over the past few years to expose the true colors of the Iranian regime, which has been spreading its tentacles throughout the region and inciting violence and hatred. They have also exposed Qatar’s efforts to wreak havoc in the Gulf and in Egypt.
It is not surprising that once Islamic State was defeated in Iraq and Syria, terrorists have starting popping up in places like Afghanistan. After sustaining a strategic blow, these terrorist groups are now moving to create crises, albeit on a smaller scale, elsewhere in the Middle East. In doing so, they are attempting to convey the message that they are still alive and well. This is the nature of the fight against terrorism – namely, that it must be fought to completion, or else it will resurface.
Most importantly, so long as the Iranian regime backs these terrorist groups without being held accountable, the threat of terrorism will become even more severe in our region.
World leaders would be wise to nip terrorism in the bud by isolating Iran instead of trying to embrace the mullahs as rational partners who can be coaxed into cooperating with the West in its battle against ISIS. Iran is part of the problem, not the solution.
– Abdullah bin Bajad al-Atibi
Al-Bayan, Dubai, February 14
In the few short weeks since the Israeli-Iranian standoff in Syrian airspace, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to have worked hard to de-escalate mounting tensions on his country’s northern border. While the Iranians denied the allegations that one of their drones entered Israeli airspace, it is clear that such a provocation did, in fact, occur.
Similarly, while the Israelis tried to de-emphasize the magnitude of the downing of one of their jets, the interception of an F-16 by Syrian air defense systems is a deeply alarming development for Israel. The incident has raised the real fear of a direct Israeli-Iranian confrontation, which could drag the entire region into war.
But Netanyahu is realizing that he is alone in this battle. The Russians, who the Israeli premier has been aggressively courting, agreed to provide Israel with freedom of action in Syria’s skies but have done nothing to curb Iran’s hostile activity along Israel’s borders. The Americans, who seemingly have Israel’s back, have taken zero action on the ground to challenge Tehran. In this environment, Netanyahu is fearful of acting alone.
Granted, Iran is currently weakened by its costly adventures in Iraq, Yemen and Syria, which has been altogether destroyed by years of brutal conflict. This could still be the time for Israel to preemptively strike. But without international backing, Israel will not initiate a war against Iran. Netanyahu might publicly intensify his rhetoric against Iran, but behind closed doors he will do whatever he can to keep the situation as calm as possible.
– Muatasam al-Dahlul
Al-Araby al-Jadeed, London, February 17
Jordan’s King Abdullah last week met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and thanked the latter for his country’s efforts to forge a Syrian cease-fire. Yet there is much more to this visit than meets the eye.
The Jordanian Royal House has been growing increasingly anxious in recent weeks over the prospect of the outbreak of a broader regional war that would involve not only local actors but also foreign superpowers, a development that would bring even more destruction and carnage upon the Middle East. Following the downing of an Israeli F-16 by Syria and the heated battle that ensued between Iran and Israel, the potential for such a confrontation has become more probable.
Abdullah and Putin need each other. Jordan has long been the only player in the region capable of talking to all parties involved in the Syrian war. Even today, Washington and Moscow rely on Amman to mediate between them on all matters pertaining to Syria. Russia, in turn, is clearly the only international player capable of influencing Iran, by setting clear restrictions on the mullahs and holding them accountable for their actions.
Accordingly, the Jordanian-Russian summit involved much more than the Syrian truce. Abdullah expressed his concern over Iran’s aggression and offered to work with the Kremlin to calm the situation on the ground. Indeed, both leaders are well aware that any confrontation in Syria will drag the entire region into a cycle of violence and bloodshed.
It seems that, at least for now, the Russian president is heeding Jordan’s advice, with Putin having expressed a willingness to work with Amman to de-escalate tensions. Jordan can also help Russia deal with the Israelis and Palestinians by bringing the two sides to the negotiation table. It may be, then, that Jordan is the last responsible actor in the region and the only one, perhaps, capable of restoring stability.
– Shihab al-Makahla