Five reasons why Israel should care about the Qatar crisis

Israel's image in the region likely can improve amid the current developments.

Gulf nations cut ties with Qatar (credit: REUTERS)
1. It hurts Hamas
Qatar has supported Hamas over the last decade and hosted former Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Doha for the last five years. In 2012, Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani visited Gaza and pledged hundreds of millions of dollars for the strip. Qatar therefore provided Hamas with not only a home in Doha but financial support and diplomatic succor. The new pressure on Qatar has encouraged it to expel Hamas members and will reduce its support for the group. This may also isolate Turkey’s relations with Hamas. Qataris are now focused on which airlines will still fly to the country tomorrow; spending money on the Gaza Strip and hosting Hamas may seem like a liability they don’t need now. Hamas will find itself with even fewer allies, which could give Israel leverage to encourage the group to change its ways. More likely, Hamas may lash out against Israel to show its relevance.
2. It brings Israel closer to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Gulf
Israel has shared interests with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states in opposing Iran. Because Qatar has supported Hamas, the new crisis encourages those states that oppose Qatar to see Israel as a partner against Hamas and Iran. This relationship has already been quietly growing in recent years, but the crisis with Qatar allows writers in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf to speak out more strongly against Hamas. Saudi Arabia’s Al Arabiya has even showcased interviews with Wonder Woman’s Gal Gadot.
3. It shows US influence is back in the region
The background of the current crisis was a feeling that US President Donald Trump’s speech to “drive out” terrorism gave a blank check to local states to act. Under Barack Obama, Israel sometimes felt isolated, especially as the US pursued the Iran deal. Now Israel feels that the Americans are back in the region and will stand by their allies.
4. It delegitimizes terrorism
The regimes that have broken relations with Qatar pay lip service to fighting terrorism and instability. Israel prefers a stable region without terrorist groups undermining neighboring states. However, there is ISIS in Sinai, Hamas in Gaza, jihadists near the Golan and Hezbollah in the Golan and in Lebanon. In that sense, Israel knows that any greater instability can be a threat. So long as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other states work in concert, the winds of stability will blow in Israel’s direction as well. The saying “all ships rise with the tide” is apt. All stable countries in the region will rise if extremist groups are reduced.
5. It bolsters Israel’s hand in general and Israel’s government in particular
Israel benefits when it is not the center of attention and certainly when it is not under pressure. This is a boon for the government. This is because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long spoken about working toward quietly cultivating regional relationships beyond Egypt and Jordan that stretch to the Gulf. He has spoken about the Iranian threat for two decades. If the Arab states are more concerned with Iran and Qatar than they are with the Palestinians, that takes pressure off of Israel at a time when Palestinians are trying to remind the region that they are facing 50 years of living under Israel’s military rule. Over the years, Israel has gone from being seen as the center of the region’s problems to today, when the Palestinian issue is dwarfed by larger conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya – and now – in the Gulf. That plays into Netanyahu’s narrative and takes the wind out of any sails that hoped the passage of 50 years since 1967 would have some sort of jarring affect. This will have some blowback because voices in the region will accuse the Gulf states and Saudis of working “for Israel.” Syria and Iran already accuse them of working with Israel. But these voices already oppose to Israel, which means its image in the region can likely improve amidst the current crisis.