Since the beginning of the war between Israel and Hamas on Oct. 7, the tiny country of Qatar has reportedly been involved in negotiations about a possible exchange or release of some of the hostages taken by Hamas during its horrific massacre of Israeli civilians in southern Israel.
Despite Israel’s denial of negotiations, multiple reports have indicated the well-known fact that Qatar is seen as one of the Gulf nations most capable of swaying Hamas leadership.
The ties between the Hamas terror organization and the Emirates run deep. The political bureau of Hamas, as well as its leader Ismail Haniyeh, have resided in the capital of Doha for years.
The Four Seasons Hotel chain was even forced to issue an official denial that Haniyeh lived in its Doha branch after reports indicated it was Haniyeh’s current residence.
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.
Qatar also became one of Hamas’ largest sponsors over the years, transferring monthly payments of up to $30 million to Gaza’s civil servants, most of whom are Hamas members.
The first of these payments, $15 million cash in suitcases, was delivered in 2018 by Qatar’s special envoy to Gaza, with the explicit approval of the Israeli government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Qatar also has close ties with Iran, whose foreign minister recently stopped in Doha during his visit to the region to coordinate Iran’s response to the Gaza war with his regime’s local allies and proxies.
On the other hand, the State of Qatar has aimed to establish itself as a mediator between radical elements in the Middle East and the West by strengthening its relations with both regions at the same time.
Qatar hosted the soccer World Cup in 2022 and acted as a meeting ground for the first talks between the United States and the Taliban after their takeover of Afghanistan in 2021.
The U.S. has awarded the Emirate the status of ‘Major Non-NATO’ ally and maintains two military bases in Qatar, one of which is the largest in the Middle East. In addition, Qatar has received substantial military aid and weapons sales from the U.S.
In Europe, Qatar has strengthened its position through strategic investments in companies and advertisement deals with football clubs like Germany’s Bayern München, which ended this June after five years.
When the Russia-Ukraine war broke out in February 2022, Qatar began to supply a substantial amount of the gas consumed in Europe by exporting LNG gas, giving it a strategic position of influence over the energy-starved continent.
For all of these reasons, many believe that Qatar is in a unique and powerful position to become a major force for good in the region, particularly if it is able to pressure Hamas into releasing Israeli hostages.
Qatar has several levers available to put enormous pressure on Hamas, from expelling or arresting its leaders to stopping financial support.
The question remains, however: Does Qatar’s leader, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Than, want to help?