Former Mossad chief says Qatari payments to Hamas got ‘out of control’

Yossi Cohen, who stepped down as spy chief on June 1, acknowledges efforts to use Doha’s money to maintain calm in Gaza were not successful

Yossi Cohen receiving an honorary doctorate at Bar-Ilan University on May 30, 2021. (Shlomi Amsalem/Bar-Ilan University)
Yossi Cohen receiving an honorary doctorate at Bar-Ilan University on May 30, 2021. (Shlomi Amsalem/Bar-Ilan University)

Former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen suggested on Monday that it was a mistake to rely on Qatari funds in an effort to bring calm to the Gaza Strip.

“Until Operation Guardian of the Walls, we had hoped that Qatari involvement and Qatari money would lead us to a settlement with Hamas,” Cohen said in a speech to the Israeli Friends of Bar-Ilan University on Monday evening, according to the Walla news site. “But things got a little out of control.”

Shortly after the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas came into effect late last month, Qatar announced that it would provide $500 million for Gaza’s reconstruction following the bruising 11-day conflict.

Qatar has funneled cash into the blockaded, Hamas-ruled enclave for years with Israeli approval. The Gulf state had already pledged $360 million in aid to Gaza at the beginning of the year.

As head of the Mossad, Cohen was responsible for the ties between Israel and Qatar, since there are no direct diplomatic relations between the countries.

Illustrative: Palestinians arrive to receive their $100 financial aid as part of the aid allocated by Qatar to poor families, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on February 4, 2021. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

In February 2020, Cohen reportedly visited Qatar in order to convince Doha not to halt its funding to Hamas. Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman claimed at the time that Cohen, on the orders of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, went to “beg” Qatar to continue payments to Gaza. “This is a policy of submission to terror,” Liberman charged, adding that Israel was paying Hamas “protection money” to maintain calm.

In his address on Monday, Cohen also reportedly said Israel had made it clear to both the Trump and Biden administrations that if the United States pulled its forces out of Iraq, Iran would easily conquer the country. “This is part of their vision,” he said, suggesting that Tehran was responsible for some of the recent cross-border fire from Syria at Israel during the Gaza war.

Cohen, who was awarded an honorary doctorate by Bar-Ilan University last month, stepped down as head of the Mossad on June 1 after more than five years in the job. He was replaced by David Barnea, who has been in the Mossad for the past 25 years, including in prominent operational roles.

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