Inside story

Qatar not inclined to assist in post-war Gaza reconstruction due to Israeli treatment

Some in Jerusalem look to distance Doha, but the warning from its PM could signal another country unwilling to help rehabilitate Strip, leaving Israel alone to do the job

Jacob Magid

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

Illustrative: Palestinians inspect the damage to residential buildings after an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, March 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)
Illustrative: Palestinians inspect the damage to residential buildings after an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, March 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told Mossad chief David Barnea in a recent meeting that Doha was not inclined to accede to Israeli requests to assist in the reconstruction of Gaza, given Jerusalem’s treatment of Qatar throughout the war, two officials familiar with the matter told The Times of Israel.

While some in Israel’s security establishment have expressed a desire to distance Qatar after the conflict with Hamas ends, al-Thani’s statement would further shrink the list of countries willing to assist in the revitalization of Gaza after the war, which could leave Jerusalem without partners in the effort.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials have spoken of Arab involvement in boosting the Strip’s security, civil affairs and economy. But al-Thani told Barnea in December that Qatar would only take part in the post-war reconstruction of Gaza if it was part of a broader initiative aimed at an eventual two-state solution, according to the two officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

That stance is consistent with the one held by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan, which have argued that they don’t want to again be called on to fund the Strip’s reconstruction after the next Gaza war and insist that the top priority must be creating a political horizon to end the conflict entirely.

Al-Thani told Barnea that Qatar also wanted to see a significant shift in Israel’s behavior vis-a-vis Qatar, pointing to several instances during the war in which he claimed Doha-funded infrastructure in Gaza had been wrongfully targeted.

Those included a hospital under which the IDF claimed to have uncovered a tunnel and a school in southern Gaza.

Mossad Director David Barnea speaks during the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) World Summit in the central coastal city of Herzliya on September 10, 2023. Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani speaks during a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Doha on January 7, 2024. (Gil Cohen-Magen, Karim Jaafar/AFP/collage)

In both cases, al-Thani said the IDF had privately expressed regret and promised to issue a public apology, but never did. The IDF did not respond to a request for comment.

Al-Thani also raised his concern to Barnea over an assertion made several times in recent months by Netanyahu that Qatar has failed to sufficiently pressure Hamas in the hostage talks — a claim that Doha rejects.

The Qatari premier made the remarks to Barnea during a December summit of Arab foreign ministers in Washington and again during a recent visit to Qatar by a delegation of Democratic lawmakers, according to a senior Arab diplomat and a US lawmaker present at the respective meetings.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, which oversees the Mossad, did not respond to requests for comment.

Israel has long had a complex relationship with Qatar, which became one of the first Arab countries to establish trade ties with Jerusalem in 1996. Those relations were severed over two decades later amid the 2009 Gaza war.

In the years that followed, though, Israel urged Qatar to donate hundreds of millions of dollars to finance Gaza humanitarian projects along with the salaries of the Strip’s civil servants.

Israel sought out and expressed appreciation for that Qatari aid in the years and months leading up to October 7, documents published last month by The Times of Israel revealed.

Critics have warned that the Qatari funds helped strengthen Hamas at the expense of the more moderate Palestinian Authority and allowed Doha to gain a foothold in the enclave by bolstering an Islamist group opposed by Israel’s Arab allies.

Palestinian children sit on a hill next to tents housing the displaced in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 30, 2024. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

Qatar’s influence over Hamas — which maintains an office in Doha, at the behest of the United States — has positioned the Gulf country to mediate between the terror group and Israel.

In the first month of the war, National Security Council chairman Tzachi Hanegbi publicly praised Doha’s efforts. But amid stalled talks to release the remaining 134 hostages who weren’t freed in the Qatar-brokered November truce that released over 109, top Israeli officials have soured on Qatar.

Economy Minister Nir Barkat branded Qatar an “enemy” that “funds terror all over the world” during a Thursday interview on MSNBC.

Responding to the Likud minister, who has sought since the war’s outbreak to criticize Netanyahu from the right, Qatar foreign ministry spokesman Majed al-Ansari called Barkat “another headline-seeking politician in Israel [who] is using ‘Qatar-bashing’ as a means to further his own political future.”

“Rather than being preoccupied with supporting in the efforts to secure a deal, Minister Barkat finds his time is better spent attacking the mediators who are working round the clock to reach a deal that ensures the release of hostages and stop the bloodshed,” Ansari said.

“Spreading lies and baseless accusations about the country that helped secure the release of 109 hostages and is relentlessly working on the release of the remaining hostages, is another sign of political recklessness and selfishness,” he added.

Most Popular
read more: