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Qatar and Hamas – What is the connection between the Islamist terrorists and the tiny Gulf country?

Hamas’ most important source of funding is key in hostage negotiations

Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (L) and the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani arrive at a cornerstone laying ceremony for Hamad, a new residential neighborhood in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, Oct. 23, 2012. (Photo: REUTERS/Mohammed Salem)

In the aftermath of the Oct. 7 massacre and kidnapping of some 240 Israelis, the Gulf Emirate of Qatar emerged as the most important mediator between the Hamas terror organization and Israel.

Numerous boycott initiatives and pressure campaigns have recently targeted Qatar, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even calling on American Jews to appeal to Qatar for help regarding the release of hostages.

The same Netanyahu, on the other hand, was heard calling Qatar’s involvement “problematic” and likened the state to the United Nations and the Red Cross.

So why is Qatar involved in the hostage issue in the first place, and how is it connected to Hamas?

Years ago, Qatar used to be just one among a handful of small, insignificant but rich Gulf principalities.

This began to change in the 1990s, under the leadership of the current Emir’s father, Sheikh Hamad Al Thani, who initiated an ambitious policy to make his country a major player on the international stage.

On the one hand, the emir strengthened his country’s already strong ties to the Western camp of nations, especially the close relations with the UK (which granted Qatar independence in 1971), and pursued even closer ties with the United States.

Since 1992, Qatar has been host to two American bases, including the largest in the Middle East, and was designated a "Major non-NATO ally" by President Joe Biden in 2022.

On the other hand, one of the emir's most important strategies was to ensure close ties with globally isolated groups and states seen as pariahs, so as to give Qatar a unique role of mediator.

In effect, Qatar’s policy since then has been to accrue power and leverage on the international stage by holding the key to the world’s terror groups and pariah states.

This has been resolutely continued by current Emir Sheikh Tamim Al Thani, who established close ties with and financial support for groups like al-Qaeda, ISIS, the Syrian Nusra Front, the Afghan Taliban, as well as Hamas.

After the Palestinian terror group violently took over the Gaza Strip in 2007, Sheikh Hamad became the first world leader to visit the coastal enclave and pledged $400 million in support.

Since then, Qatar has financed the Hamas regime with an estimated $1.8 billion, in part to subsidize government salaries.

In a now-infamous episode, Qatar’s regional envoy in 2018 hand-delivered briefcases containing $15 million in cash to pay the salaries of Gaza’s civil servants and ease the humanitarian situation.

In addition, Hamas’ senior leadership and political bureau (Politburo) have been residing in Qatar’s capital of Doha since they left Syria in the wake of the Arab Spring in 2012.

Politburo leader Ismail Haniyeh reportedly lives in luxury in the Four Seasons Hotel in Doha, as do many of his aides.

Haniyeh's “victory speech” and prayer of thanks after the Hamas massacre on Oct. 7, along with other Hamas operatives, was broadcast live by Al Jazeera, the Doha-based government-owned television channel responsible for spreading anti-Israel, anti-American and antisemitic propaganda for years.

Especially during the ongoing war, Al Jazeera has become the official mouthpiece for Hamas statements and propaganda videos, and the IDF has since revealed that several of its “journalists” worked for the channel.

The channel also hosted a program by Yusuf Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s most important cleric, who endorsed the tactic of suicide bombings. After the Oct. 7 massacre, it issued a broadcast of Hamas military chief Mohammad Deif’s call to arms.

Despite all this, repeated Israeli plans to close the Al Jazeera operations in Israel have failed, highlighting its importance to Qatar, as well as the country’s enormous political power.

In simple terms, Qatar is too powerful and significant for Israel to risk provoking, even by shutting down the operation of an enemy’s mouthpiece within its own territory.

There are reports that given Qatar's close ties to Hamas, it may have known about the surprise invasion and attack on Israel prior to Oct. 7.

At the moment, Israel will likely continue to be dependent on Qatar as the only country with active ties and huge leverage over its largest enemy in Gaza.

Hanan Lischinsky has a Master’s degree in Middle East & Israel studies from Heidelberg University in Germany, where he spent part of his childhood and youth. He finished High School in Jerusalem and served in the IDF’s Intelligence Corps. Hanan and his wife live near Jerusalem, and he joined ALL ISRAEL NEWS in August 2023.

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