Qatar slams 'destructive' claims by Israel's far-right government

Qatar slams 'destructive' claims by Israel's far-right government
A diplomatic crisis is brewing between Qatar and Israel after the Israeli PM appeared to cast doubt on Doha's mediation efforts for a Gaza truce.
4 min read
25 January, 2024
Israel's Netanyahu (left) and Smotrich have cast doubt on Qatar's mediator role [Getty]

Mediation talks for a new truce in Gaza are in danger after a far-right Israeli official and reportedly the PM lashed out at Qatar.

The spat between Qatar and Israel - which have no official diplomatic ties - threatens to break down efforts by Doha, Egypt, and the US to establish a new truce in Gaza, which would likely entail a hostage and detainee swap deal similar to the one reached in November.

Qatar said it was "appalled" by supposed remarks made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was allegedly caught on tape calling Doha's mediator role "problematic".

"You don't hear me thanking Qatar... who are essentially no different from the United Nations or Red Cross, and even more problematic. I have no illusions with regards to them," Netanyahu allegedly said in the recording shared by Israeli Channel 12.

"They have the means to put pressure [on Hamas]. And why? Because they finance them."

The PM was also reportedly angered at Washington's decision earlier this month to renew its military presence at Qatar's Al-Udeid Air Base for another decade.

Qatar’s foreign ministry’s spokesman Majed al-Ansari responded to the claims, describing them as "destructive" and undermining efforts to bring Israeli hostages home.

"We are appalled by the alleged remarks attributed to the Israeli Prime Minister in various media reports about Qatar’s mediation role. These remarks if validated, are irresponsible and destructive to the efforts to save innocent lives, but are not surprising," he wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

"If the reported remarks are found to be true, the Israeli PM would only be obstructing and undermining the mediation process, for reasons that appear to serve his political career instead of prioritizing saving innocent lives, including Israeli hostages," al-Ansari added.

He also advised Netanyahu not to concern himself with Qatari-US relations but instead focus on securing the release of hostages still held in Gaza.

Israel’s extremist Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich hit back at the Qatari official, bizarrely accusing it of having a role in the 7 October attacks perpetrated by Hamas.

Qatar is the "patron of Hamas and is largely responsible for the massacre committed by Hamas of Israeli citizens", Smotrich - who has hinted that Gaza should be ethnically cleansed - wrote on X.

Smotrich also accused the Gulf state of supporting and financing terrorism, claims Doha strongly denies.

He also lashed out at "hypocritical" Western nations for their ties to Qatar, urging them to "exert much stronger leverage on it".

"One thing is clear: Qatar will not be involved one bit in what happens in Gaza the day after the war," he added.

The tit-for-tat remarks come as Israel continues its aggression on Gaza, killing over 25,700 people, most of them civilians, in less than four months. It is widely believed that the colossal death toll could amount to genocide.

In recent weeks, Israel's bombardment has largely concentrated on the southern portion of the Gaza Strip, particularly Khan Younis, the enclave’s second-largest city.

Israel says it wants to dismantle Hamas, which killed about 1,140 people on 7 October and took about 250 others hostage, according to Israeli figures.

Israel believes 132 captives remain in Gaza. Many other hostages were killed by Israeli strikes or shot dead by soldiers as they were mistaken to be Palestinians.

Hamas says its attack came in response to Israel’s 16-year blockade of Gaza and decades of aggression against the Palestinian people.