Cutting off Qatar
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Hebrew media review

Cutting off Qatar

As the Arab Gulf states mobilize to isolate terror-funding Doha, the Hebrew-language papers focus on the impact such a move could have on Iran and Hamas

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A man walking past the Qatar Airways branch in the Saudi capital Riyadh, after it had suspended all flights to Saudi Arabia following a severing of relations between major gulf states and gas-rich Qatar, June 5, 2017. (AFP/FAYEZ NURELDINE)
A man walking past the Qatar Airways branch in the Saudi capital Riyadh, after it had suspended all flights to Saudi Arabia following a severing of relations between major gulf states and gas-rich Qatar, June 5, 2017. (AFP/FAYEZ NURELDINE)

It seems a new Middle East is shaping up as more nations announce their intention to cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar, due to the energy-rich country’s embracing of various terrorist and sectarian groups across the region. The Hebrew-language media pundits, for the most part, welcome the move by Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and, later yesterday, Yemen, and attempt to decipher what the future will hold in light of Qatar’s surprise isolation, with the conversation mostly focusing on the emirate’s funding of Iranian interests in the region and on the effect that the diplomatic crises will have on the Gaza Strip.

“The siege on Qatar,” reads Yedioth Ahronoth’s headline. In an elaborate infographic, the paper maps out Qatar’s influences on the Middle East, explaining that the country funds the Shiite Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah as well as the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood, which is opposed to the rule of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. Yedioth further highlights Qatar’s ties to Iran, and, by proxy, to Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose country is engaged in a bloody civil war which has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians.

Yedioth analyst Alex Fishman pivots the conversation on Qatar toward the Palestinian terror group Hamas, noting that, under the radar, six top Hamas officials have recently been kicked out of Doha, from where they effectively had for years been managing the affairs of the Gaza Strip.

“This story was kept in the shadows because no one involved — the Egyptians, Saudis, Qataris, Americans, and Israelis — had no intention of creating, on the eve of the arrival of US President Donald Trump to to the region, noises that would be burdensome to the harmony of the gathering of Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia [for their meeting with Trump],” Fishman writes. “When Trump mentioned in Saudi Arabia that Hamas was a terrorist group just like Hezbollah, the Islamic State, and al-Qaeda, he meant that all those factions in the Sunni Arab world that support Hamas — especially Qatar — should pull away from the organization.”

Fishman says that in light of this, and since Qatar will likely attempt to do all it can in order to alleviate tensions with the other Arab nations in the region, Hamas will most probably be thrown under the bus. “Hamas is watching its only support from the Sunni-Arab world being pulled away,” he writes. “Under pressure, [Qatar] won’t hesitate to sell out [Hamas].”

Israel Hayom calls the Qatari diplomatic crisis a new “Gulf war,” and focuses on the mounting pressure to halt funding for terrorist entities. “The survival strategy for the Qatari royal family has for years been to hold the stick at both ends,” writes Israel Hayom contributor Oded Granot. “To establish a massive base for the US military on its territory, while at the same time flirting with Iran; to fight terror, but fund the Islamic State and the Al-Nusra front in Syria… But Qatar failed to understand that the new regional power, now more than ever, is Saudi Arabia.” Granot asserts too that Qatar will fold under the pressure, and will likely toe the line by pulling funds from Hamas and Hezbollah.

In Haaretz, Zvi Barel explains that the Qatari kerfuffle presents a serious dilemma for the White House, which had set its sights on creating a Sunni-Arab coalition to fight terror in the Middle East. Barel says Trump is now forced to decide whether to join Saudi Arabia and cut ties with Qatar — a move which would have to include the shuttering of the US military base in the country — or to attempt to bring Qatar into the fold in order to combat extremism in the region. Barel believes that the US government will choose the latter option, but accepts that this will not be an easy task for the White House.

“The question now is who can mediate between Qatar and Saudi Arabia and the other emirates, and which concessions Qatar is willing to make in order to return to the embrace of the Gulf [states],” he writes.

Back in Yedioth, the paper sounds an alarmist tone over a recent Health Ministry report which concludes that, according to the paper, “we are raising a generation of obese” children who may be incapable of joining the Israeli army or even, in extreme cases, the workforce, due to their weight. Yedioth reports that in order to address this challenge, the ministry has put together a “dramatic” multi-year plan to to drastically change the dietary habits of Israeli kids.

“We will completely ban sales of products with trans fat — such as bourekas and pizza,” a Health Ministry official is quoted as saying. “If we do not treat this today, we are effectively destroying Israel’s economic value.”

While a prohibition on the consumption of pizza may sound like a fate worse than death to many people, Yedioth explains that nowadays it is both easy and cheap to rid foods of trans fats by removing certain ingredients — margarine, for example — and replacing them with more healthy substitutes. The paper further provides its readers with some relief by quoting another Health Ministry official, who says that once the trans fat is removed from your favorite dish, the (future) ban will no longer apply to it.

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