Qatar has a history of playing both sides in conflicts and getting away with it
One of the outcomes of the Hamas massacre in Israel needs to be an understanding that the world can no longer play a double game with Hamas. Countries and people will need to pick the side they are on – Israel, the United States and Europe, who are battling Hamas murderers, or the terrorists. It is that simple.
One of the first places to start asking this question is Qatar, the small and opulent country in the Persian Gulf that has a history of playing both sides in conflicts and more importantly, getting away with it.
On Friday, for example, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spent the day in Qatar as part of his tour through the Middle East to shore up support for Israel’s campaign against Hamas.
And then on Saturday, another foreign minister arrived in the country – Hossein Amirabdollahian from Iran. There are few countries in the world that can host a U.S. secretary of state one day, and then America’s arch nemesis from Iran the next. Qatar is one of them.
Amirabdollahian’s visit to Qatar included a meeting on Saturday night with Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’s political leader who lives in Doha and the man who broke out in celebration on live TV after hearing that his fighters had massacred more than 1,200 people and kidnapped around 150 more. In a video posted from the meeting, Iran’s foreign minister is seen warmly embracing Haniyeh as well as his two Hamas deputies – Mousa Abu Marzook and Khalil al Haya.
How Qatar and the ruling Al Thani family continue to provide sanctuary to terrorists is outrageous. Can anyone imagine after 9/11 that Qatar would have been allowed to host al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden? What happened in Israel last week is the modern version of 9/11 and Qatar needs to be forced to make a decision – does it stand with the terrorists or with the West?
I know what American, Israeli and Qatari government officials will say: It is complicated. They will explain that by harboring Hamas in Qatar, the Al Thanis can negotiate a possible swap for the Israeli hostages that are being held in Gaza. Qatar, these officials explain, is one of the few countries that has an open line of communication with Israel, the U.S. and the Gaza Strip.
And the truth is that, until now, this situation was also convenient for Israel. Qatar was instrumental in transferring suitcases of cash – sometimes up to $30 million at a time – to Hamas until last year to buy quiet. Israel embraced this policy, thinking that money and other economic incentives could stave off war. On Oct. 7, we learned how wrong this thinking was.
The lesson from the Hamas invasion is that a country should not be allowed to host the World Cup alongside the leaders of a ruthless terrorist organizations. What is playing out in Israel is a battle between good and evil and right and wrong. Countries like Qatar need to be forced to stop their support of Hamas and if they cannot do it alone, then the U.S. should help them.
America, for example, operates the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar where it has thousands of soldiers stationed alongside some of the U.S. military’s most sophisticated aircraft. A mission to capture Haniyeh would not be difficult.
Haniyeh might call himself a political leader, but there is no such thing as a “politician” in a terrorist organization like Hamas. Haniyeh and his deputies are not working for diplomatic resolutions like the two-state solution to the conflict with Israel. They want to annihilate the Jewish state, and they tried to do that on Oct. 7 when their men burned babies, murdered Holocaust survivors, shot parents in front of their children and raped young women.
His expulsion or capture and extradition to the U.S. would have a significant impact on Hamas and undermine its ability to raise money from patrons like Qatar and Iran. Less money would mean difficulty procuring advanced weapons and that would make it harder for the group to launch attacks against Israel.
Symbolically, Haniyeh’s capture or expulsion from Qatar would also have significance. It would show the terrorist group that there is no safe haven for people who orchestrate massacres against civilians.
Hamas is a violent, murderous group that needs to be stopped – the gunmen who broke into Israeli homes, as well as leaders like Haniyeh who thinks he can terrorize civilians from the safety of his home in Doha.
If we learned anything from Oct. 7, it is that the difference between good and evil needs to be clear and that Hamas needs to be defeated. Qatar needs to decide whose side it is on.
Yaakov Katz is a senior fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute, a former editor of the Jerusalem Post where he remains a columnist, and the author of three books on Israeli military affairs.