Time to rethink the US relationship with Qatar

The time for a readjustment in the US-Qatari bilateral relationship is now.

QATARI AND US Coast Guard flags flutter during a joint naval exercise by US and Qatar troops in the Arabian Gulf. (photo credit: REUTERS)
QATARI AND US Coast Guard flags flutter during a joint naval exercise by US and Qatar troops in the Arabian Gulf.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Qatari government reportedly has begun what can be described only as a bizarre effort to improve its image in the court of American Jewish opinion, hiring a former adviser to Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) at $50,000 a month to reach out to American Jewish leaders.
We’re not buying it.
So far, every American Jewish leader approached has refused to meet with Qatar’s emissaries and rightfully so.
Some sources have indicated that the Qataris have offered to use their considerable influence with Hamas – bought with blood money in support of terrorism – to have the remains of Lt. Hadar Goldin and Sgt. Oron Shaul returned to their families for proper burial. Goldin, 23, and Shaul, 20, were killed the summer of 2014 during Operation Protective Edge, a defensive war against Hamas. Goldin was killed that August, just two hours after a UN- and US-brokered cease-fire was put into effect. In violation of international law and decency, Hamas is holding both soldiers’ remains as bargaining chips for a future exchange of prisoners.
As one of Hamas’ major supporters, providing some $1.4 billion to the rulers of Gaza and a safe haven for the organization’s terrorist leaders, Qatar certainly has leverage over Hamas. But when it comes to the remains of Israeli soldiers, that leverage should be used for humanitarian reasons not as a way to win favor with American Jews.
An Iranian-backed terrorist group that controls the Gaza Strip, Hamas has been declared a terrorist group by the US and the European Union. It is responsible for the death of Americans, maintains a charter that calls for Israel’s annihilation, has killed more than 500 Israeli civilians in suicide bombings, has fired more than 17,000 rockets into Israel since 2001 and teaches its children to hate Jews.
Qatar’s support of Hamas and other terrorist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, has led the more moderate Sunni nations of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to blockade it, a blockade that is leading Qatar to strengthened economic ties and renewed diplomatic relations with Iran.
Meanwhile, Qatar is home to the largest US military presence in the Middle East, with more than 11,000 American personnel. The US and Qataris have a well-established bilateral relationship, and the US is “Qatar’s largest foreign investor and its single largest source of imports,” according to the US State Department.
Yet, despite that bilateral relationship, the State Department has also criticized Qatar for “the inability of citizens to change their government peacefully through free and fair elections, restriction of fundamental civil liberties, and denial of the rights of foreign workers. The monarch-appointed government prohibited organized political parties and restricted civil liberties, including freedoms of speech, press, and assembly and access to a fair trial for persons held under the Protection of Society Law and Combating Terrorism Law.”
The time for a readjustment in the US-Qatari bilateral relationship is now.
Qatar must be forced to choose between embracing the more moderate Sunni states or our enemy, Iran, with extraordinary consequences if Doha chooses the latter. Doha’s support for terrorists must end and all money it provides must go through intermediaries to ensure that funding goes toward humanitarian efforts, not to maintain Hamas’ stranglehold on Gaza.
The Qataris’ unsavory efforts to win over the American Jewish establishment should continue to be met with a slammed door. The Qataris should insist that Hamas return the remains of Goldin and Shaul unconditionally and immediately as a humanitarian gesture, and stop peddling in the business of human despair. And anyone hired to whitewash Qatar’s massive financing of terrorism should be ashamed.
The international community must press Qatar to reject Iran and Hamas, to end this balancing act and to stop strengthening extremists. The US should reject Qatar’s spending spree in our nation and should use its economic leverage to prevent the kingdom from funding extremism and fostering Middle East instability.
No matter how much Qatar spends on us, its support of antisemitic terrorists must not be tolerated.
America’s Jewish leaders will not be bought.
The author is executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington.