OPINION: Controversial Qatari Deal—Millions Sent to Hamas with Israel’s Support


by Abdul-Aziz Al-Khames

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s strategy was to allow aid to reach Gaza via Qatar with the hope that it would bolster Hamas and serve as an effective counterweight to the Palestinian Authority.

Since the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, Qatar has faced intense scrutiny from Israeli officials, American politicians, and the media. The criticism stems from Qatar’s provision of hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Gaza, a territory under the control of the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Over the years, Qatar has consistently provided millions of dollars in aid to the region. However, what has sparked controversy is the revelation that Israel has supported and facilitated these transactions. This revelation has left many perplexed and searching for answers.

When Did Qatar Start the Payments?

In 2018, Qatar initiated a series of monthly payments to the Gaza Strip, totaling around $15 million. These payments were literally delivered in bags full of cash, transported by the Qataris through Israeli territory.

This process followed months of negotiations between Qatar and Israel, underscoring the complexity of the arrangement. The catalyst for Qatar’s financial assistance to Gaza can be traced back to a decision made by the Palestinian Authority, the governing body in the occupied West Bank and a rival to Hamas.

In 2017, the Palestinian Authority chose to cut the salaries of government employees in Gaza. This decision, confirmed by an Israeli government source familiar with the matter, set the stage for Qatar’s involvement.

The Palestinian Authority’s move to reduce salaries was met with opposition, particularly from those affected by the salary cuts. It was against this backdrop that Qatar stepped in.

Recognizing the dire economic situation in Gaza and the potential repercussions of reduced salaries, Qatar saw an opportunity to provide aid to alleviate the financial strain on the local population.

However, the Palestinian Authority, at the time, expressed opposition to the Qatari funding. The rivalry between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza, added another layer of complexity to the situation.

The Palestinian Authority viewed the Qatari funds as potentially fostering division among Palestinian factions.

Israel’s Motivations: Understanding the Agreement to the Payments

Reports from Israeli and international media shed light on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s plan, which aimed to use the aid as a means to counterbalance the Palestinian Authority and prevent the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

However, this approach faced criticism from Palestinian Authority officials who argued that the cash transfers deepened divisions between Palestinian factions. While Israel’s intelligence community did not back Netanyahu’s plan.

According to Israeli media reports, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s strategy was to allow aid to reach Gaza via Qatar with the hope that it would bolster Hamas and serve as an effective counterweight to the Palestinian Authority.

By empowering Hamas, Netanyahu aimed to prevent the Palestinian Authority from consolidating power and potentially thwarting the creation of a Palestinian state. This approach was driven by a belief that a divided Palestinian leadership would be less capable of pursuing statehood aspirations.

Critics of the plan, including Palestinian Authority officials, argued that the cash transfers encouraged division among Palestinian factions. They viewed the Qatari funds as strengthening Hamas’s position at the expense of the Palestinian Authority, exacerbating existing political fractures within the Palestinian leadership. 

While Prime Minister Netanyahu supported the plan, it did not receive unanimous backing from the Israeli intelligence community. Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad, a former senior Israeli Defense Ministry official, confirmed this discrepancy, emphasizing that the plan enjoyed the prime minister’s support, but not that of the intelligence community. 

Shlomo Brom, Israel’s former deputy national security adviser, provided further insight into Netanyahu’s motivations. He suggested that empowering Hamas helped the prime minister avoid engaging in negotiations for a Palestinian state.

By promoting a divided Palestinian leadership, Netanyahu potentially evaded the need to address the larger political and territorial issues associated with a comprehensive peace agreement. 

Qatar Faces Violent Reactions

Qatar’s geopolitical positioning, maintaining relations with both Hamas and Western countries, has brought about a series of violent reactions and controversies. The Gulf state has faced heavy criticism for allowing Hamas, an Iran-backed group, to establish a political office in Doha since 2012.

While Qatar’s involvement proved useful in securing the release of hostages, it has also drawn accusations from Israeli officials, who assert that the state supports Hamas. Qatar, however, denies these claims, stating that the funds it provides are intended as aid to pay the salaries of workers in the Gaza Strip.

Moreover, Qatar’s hosting of a major US air base has subjected it to additional pressure in Congress. 

The establishment of a political office for Hamas in Doha has been a focal point of criticism. Critics argue that Qatar’s allowance of this office has provided legitimacy and support to an Iran-backed group that has been involved in violence and armed conflict. 

The Qatari establishment played a leading role in securing the release of hostages, showcasing its capacity for diplomatic engagement and conflict resolution. This highlights the multifaceted nature of Qatar’s foreign policy, which seeks to balance its relationships with diverse actors, often navigating competing interests and agendas.

The pressure on Qatar has extended beyond regional dynamics. As a host to a major US air base, the Gulf state has faced scrutiny and demands for accountability from the US Congress. This pressure highlights the intricate nature of Qatar’s relationships and the delicate equilibrium it must uphold to effectively navigate international alliances.

The piece is based on Abdul-Aziz Al-Khames’ analysis post on X (formerly known as Twitter).

Al-Khames is a Saudi Journalist. Researcher in Middle-East Affairs. He tweets under @AlKhames.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Milli Chronicle’s point-of-view.

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