Minister shoots back: 'A terror-supporting state'

Qatar fumes at Netanyahu’s criticism, says he undermines talks for political reasons

Doha ‘appalled’ after PM recorded calling its role as mediator in hostage negotiations ‘problematic’; US Jews rally outside Qatari embassy in DC to urge release of hostages

Qatar Foreign Ministry spokesperson Majed Al-Ansari. (video screenshot)
Qatar Foreign Ministry spokesperson Majed Al-Ansari. (video screenshot)

Qatar’s foreign ministry on Wednesday chastised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for saying that it was “problematic” that Doha was acting as the mediator between Israel and the Hamas terror group.

In a recording aired Tuesday by Israeli television, Netanyahu could be heard criticizing Qatar over its role as mediator in hostage negotiations with the terror group and appearing to express disappointment with the United States for not applying more pressure on the Gulf state, which is a leading patron of Hamas and hosts its leaders.

Majed Al Ansari, the spokesperson for Qatar’s foreign ministry, said that Doha was “appalled” by the remarks, adding that if confirmed, they “are irresponsible and destructive to the efforts to save innocent lives, but are not surprising.”

“If the reported remarks are found to be true, the Israeli PM would only be obstructing and undermining the mediation process, for reasons that appear to serve his political career instead of prioritizing saving innocent lives, including Israeli hostages,” he wrote.

“Instead of concerning himself with Qatar’s strategic relations with the United States, we hope Netanyahu decides to operate in good faith and concentrate on the release of the hostages.”

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich shot back, calling the Gulf state “a terror-supporting and terror-funding state.”

Smotrich said on X that Doha was “Hamas’s patron and is largely responsible for the massacre of Israeli citizens Hamas committed [on October 7].

“The West’s treatment of it is hypocritical and based on improper financial interests. The West can and should employ far stronger leverage and bring about the release of the hostages immediately,” he said.

“One thing is certain: Qatar won’t be involved in any way in managing Gaza the day after the war.”

The Qatari response came as Doha and Washington have been seeking to broker a new hostage release agreement between Israel and Hamas, with reports in recent days saying the sides have moved closer together. Israeli officials, however, pushed back on Wednesday against the reports of progress in the talks.

Also Wednesday, a group of Jewish demonstrators rallied outside Qatar’s embassy in Washington, calling for Doha to increase pressure on Hamas to free the hostages. Those attending the demonstration included US Representatives Jamie Raskin and Glenn Ivey, both Democrats from neighboring Maryland.

“I think you need to speak to the hearts of the international community to apply pressure on those who can apply pressure,” Netanyahu was heard telling the families of hostages in the leaked recording published Tuesday by Channel 12 news.

He said Qatar should be the first address, even as he noted that he has never thanked Doha publicly for its role.

“Qatar, from my point of view, is no different in essence than the United Nations… and the Red Cross, [Qatar] is even more problematic,” he said, adding, however, that he’s willing to speak to anyone “that would help me get them home.”

“I have no illusions about them. They have leverage [over Hamas]… Because [Qatar] funds them.”

Netanyahu said he got “very angry recently with the Americans” for renewing a deal to extend US military presence at a base in Qatar for another 10 years.

In addition to hosting Hamas leaders, Qatar also hosts the largest US base in the Middle East and in 2022 was named a major non-NATO US ally, a designation granted by the United States to close, non-NATO allies that have strategic working relationships with the US military.

Leveraging the deal “would apply pressure [on Qatar],” Netanyahu said in the recording.

A US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress aircraft from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, arrives at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar on April 9, 2016. (Staff Sgt. Corey Hook/US Air Force via AP)

He also said Qatar has given Israel commitments to ensure medications reach the hostages, as agreed in a celebrated but as-yet incomplete deal brokered by Doha and Paris last week to deliver much-needed medicines to the hostages.

The deal also included the provision of medical supplies, food and other humanitarian aid for Palestinians in the war-torn Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu previously admitted that the Qatari commitment to deliver medicine to hostages was the only way Israel had to verify their delivery.

“We’ll know in a few days, maybe before,” Netanyahu told the families in the meeting.

Netanyahu’s military secretary, Brig. Gen. Avi Gil, told the families Israel was “supposed to receive via the Qataris a kind of confirmation… that [the hostages] received the medications.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a meeting with relatives of hostages held in Gaza, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on January 22, 2024. (Prime Minister’s Office)

Qatar and Washington were instrumental in negotiating a weeklong truce in November that led to the release of more than 100 hostages. In return for the release of those hostages, Israel agreed to free around 240 Palestinian prisoners and to an increase in humanitarian aid entering Gaza.

It is believed that 132 hostages of the 253 abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza. The IDF has confirmed the deaths of 28 of those still held by Hamas, citing new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza. The bodies of 11 hostages, including three mistakenly killed by the military, have been recovered so far from the Strip.

Hamas has also been holding two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who are both thought to be alive after entering the Strip of their own accord in 2014 and 2015, respectively, as well as the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin since 2014.

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