Qatar threatens to expel Mashaal if Hamas accepts Egypt’s cease-fire

Doha, Qatar. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Doha, Qatar. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The continuation of the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza is again bringing the role of Qatar in perpetuating the fighting to the forefront.

Yedioth Ahronoth is reporting a claim by a senior Fatah official to the Qatari Al-Hayat newspaper that Qatar recently threatened Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal with expulsion if Hamas were to accept the latest Egyptian-brokered cease-fire proposal. Qatar has been giving refuge to Mashaal since 2012. He had fled Hamas’s offices in Damascus after Hamas criticized Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in regards to the ongoing civil war there.

The Fatah official also indicated that Hamas has requested that Qatar assist Egypt in the indirect cease-fire negotiations, and that Egypt invite Qatar's foreign minister or head of intelligence to take part in the talks. But Egypt has refused, and demanded in return that Qatar apologize for the policy it has implemented vis-a-vis Egypt since the overthrow of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi—a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas's parent group.

According to a diplomatic source in Qatar, in June the country also attempted to transfer funds to an Arab bank in order to pay the salaries of 44,000 Hamas civil servants.

In addition to its dealings with Hamas, recently the Qatari government welcomed a visit by three Israeli-Arab members of Knesset from the Balad party. The trio met with their party's founder, Azmi Bishara, who had fled Israel and resigned from the Knesset in 2007 after being investigated by Israeli police for enemy ties, including with Hezbollah during the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

One of the MKs, Hanin Zoabi, participated in the 2010 flotilla that tried to break the blockade of Gaza. She has also made a series of statements against Israel and in support of Hamas, and in July was suspended from the Knesset for six months. Israeli police this week recommended that Zoabi be put on trial for incitement.

"[Arabs] must declare popular resistance instead of security coordination [with Israel], besiege ‘Israel’ instead of negotiating with it, and unite instead of splinter," Zoabi wrote in an op-ed for Felesteen, an Arab-language publication.

Joseph LeBaron, the U.S. ambassador to Qatar from 2008-2011, told in July that Qatar’s policy is not to support terrorism and that the country "would not support Hamas if it believed Hamas was a terror group." But Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said that "at the end of the day, even though they are nominally allied with the United States, [the Qataris] are Islamist at their core."

Posted on August 20, 2014 .