Qatar: Ties with Hamas ‘useful’ in current war between terror group and Israel

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Qatar's foreign ministry spokesperson Majed al-Ansari addresses the Doha forum on December 6, 2018. (Screen capture/YouTube)
Qatar's foreign ministry spokesperson Majed al-Ansari addresses the Doha forum on December 6, 2018. (Screen capture/YouTube)

Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesperson indicates that his country has no intention to shutter Hamas’s political bureau in Doha after the October 7 onslaught, arguing that the channel of communication has been critical for talks on the release of the hostages and for efforts to de-escalate fighting between the terror group and Israel.

Majed al-Ansari tells CNN that “various sides” had pushed Qatar to open a line of communication with Hamas and to even allow the terror group to establish a political bureau in Doha. “This channel has been very instrumental in countering the escalations that took place,” he says, claiming that Qatar’s talks with Hamas helped curb tensions in September after two weeks of border rioting by Palestinians.

“Therefore, as long as this channel is useful in creating peace, we have to have it. We cannot afford to lose it,” al-Ansari says.

“It is now useful during this escalation. It is the only way that we are mediating the release of these hostages and for them to get back home to their families,” he adds.

Qatar’s role in the current conflict has been a source of controversy in Israel, with a growing number of officials arguing that Doha should not be hosting the terror group after the carnage that Hamas inflicted on October 7.

At the same time, there appears to be recognition in Jerusalem that Qatar is the country most capable of mediating between Israel and Hamas, perhaps because of Doha’s longstanding ties to the terror group.

National Security Council chairman Tzachi Hanegbi even hailed Qatar’s efforts in an English tweet earlier this week that drew criticism from former prime minister Naftali Bennett but also led many analysts to believe that a major deal to release the hostages in Gaza was on the horizon.

In 2020, Israel’s then-Mossad chief Yossi Cohen and then IDF Southern Command chief Herzi Halevi (now chief of staff) reportedly flew to Qatar to encourage Doha to continue funneling tens of millions of dollars in monthly aid to Hamas, as Jerusalem was then convinced that the terror group could be bought off to refrain from attacking Israel.

The payments were seen as part of a broader policy from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who critics have accused of boosting Hamas at the expense of the more moderate Palestinian Authority to avoid political negotiations and to keep the various Palestinian factions divided.

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