Qatar Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani stood before the world's media earlier today to talk about the situation in Gaza and provide an update on mediation efforts to release Israeli hostages. The Gulf state, one of the main financiers of Hamas, has been trying since the start of the fighting to position itself as an 'honest mediator,' placing the humanitarian issues - the release of all the Israeli hostages, while transferring aid to Gaza - at the center of its activities. It is doing this, among other things, to fend off criticism of its involvement in the atrocities of Hamas, which may translate into financial penalties, and to demonstrate once again its importance in the Arab world, after successful mediation attempts in the past.
At the press conference today alongside the Turkish Foreign Minister, the Qatari Prime Minister strongly condemned the Israeli attack on Gaza, and not the massacres by Hamas. He expressed hope that the Israeli hostages held in Gaza would be released 'soon', but did not provide further details about the talks going on behind the scenes, mediated by Qatar. "The number of children killed in Gaza is greater than the number of children killed in Ukraine, but we have not seen a similar reaction from the world," he complained. "Qatar condemns the policy of collective punishment (against Gaza)," he added.
At the same time, signs from the Israeli side were more encouraging. "I’m pleased to say that Qatar is becoming an essential party and stakeholder in the facilitation of humanitarian solutions. Qatar’s diplomatic efforts are crucial at this time.," National Security Council head Tzachi Hanegbi posted on X (formerly Twitter).
Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and member of the royal family
Mohammed Al Thani, 42, is a member of the Qatari royal family, which rules the country, is the most powerful government official, serving as both prime minister and foreign minister. Qatar is one of the richest countries in the world in GDP per capita terms.
He has a bachelor's degree in economics from Qatar University, and has been prime minister for the past six months and foreign minister since 2016. He has worked his way up, serving, among other things, as the director of the Qatar Mining Company, which has branches around the world. He also heads the Qatar Development Fund, which donates hundreds of millions of dollars to humanitarian causes around the world, in cooperation with the World Health Organization and UN organizations.
Ariel Admoni, a doctorate student at Bar-Ilan University, and an expert on Qatar, told "Globes" that in previous mediation efforts, when credit was given to the prime minister and the dynamics of decision making in the Qatari government, make it very likely that Prime Minister Mohammed Al Thani is directly involved in the negotiations between the two sides.
Admoni says, "The Qatari approach, uses a small circle of partners and policymakers, who are the Emir's most trusted people. Even in secret meetings earlier this year, such as a Qatari meeting with the leader of the Taliban, it was reported that the prime minister and the head of the intelligence services were in the room."
The Qatari Foreign Ministry is bloated for such a small country, as part of the small Gulf state's policy of gaining power through international mediation. Among other things, it mediated deals for the release of hostages taken by ISIS and Al Qaeda, and recently was even involved in the release of Ukrainian children kidnapped by Russian forces. Qatar also acted as a mediator in the deal in which Americans held in Iran were released in exchange for the release of €6 billion of Iranian funds held in the US.
Qatar's aim, experts say, is to have maximum influence for a small country influence than the geographical data allows it, and this is one of the reasons it also founded the Al Jazeera network, which is used to sway public opinion in the Arab world according to the interests of the Qatari ruling family. The Qatari double game has led to good relations both with Israel (the head of the Mossad and other senior officials visited it in the past, and a semi-official representation operated in Doha) and with the US (which operates one of its largest bases in the Persian Gulf on Qatari territory). At the same time, it has transferred billions of dollars to Hamas in recent years, in full coordination with Israel as it has made clear in the past, and hosts senior Hamas officials in luxury hotels in Doha.
"We know that they have an open line to Hamas," a US Department of Defense spokesperson said in a press briefing this week. "We are the only ones who can talk to both Hamas and Israel," Majed Al Ansari, a "special adviser" to the foreign minister, told the Western media. During the soccer World Cup held there last year, for example, Qatar granted Israelis special entry permits.
Qatar's large investment in sport, in NGOs, and in European corporate giants are part of the emirate's "soft power" policy, that is, accumulating global influence by means other than weapons and security. It does this, among other things, through the Qatar Investment Authority, which Mohammed Al Thani also chaired from 2018, until he was appointed prime minister earlier this year. The Authority manages about half a trillion dollars, accumulated from the large amount of oil and gas revenues earned by the country.
In the current situation, the Emir himself, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, personally discussed the subject of the hostages with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz during a visit to the country, and the Prime Minister personally met with the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. US President Joe Biden thanked Qatar with warm words, and Blinken also praised its role after the release of two hostages with US citizenship. Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen also thanked Qatar and wrote "I am full of hope that considering the complexity of the challenges, Qatar will gradually take on a constructive and effective role." But several minutes later, Cohen deleted the post.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on October 25, 2023.
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