Qatar turns to Israel to escape Saudi squeeze

US President Donald Trump meets Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in New York, 19 September 2017.

Kevin Lamarque Reuters

The Qatari government has been sponsoring trips for right-wing Americans and staunch supporters of Israel in an apparent bid to salvage the emirate from its regional isolation.

Earlier this month, Israel apologist Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz made a trip to Doha at the invitation of Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the emir of Qatar, who financed the trip.

Dershowitz, one of the Israel lobby’s most prominent US figures, wrote an article upon his return in which he reflected on numerous meetings with Qatari officials.

But he first professed to being surprised at learning that an Israeli tennis player was to participate in a Doha tournament and that Qatar is open to welcoming the Israeli national soccer team, should it qualify for the World Cup which Qatar will host in 2022.

He contrasted this with Saudi Arabia’s refusal to grant a visa to an Israeli chess player, concluding that “the Saudis were not necessarily the good guys in their dispute with Qatar.”

“The Israel of the Gulf”

Dershowitz’s take on the Qatar blockade also referenced Israel: “I observed that Qatar is quickly becoming the Israel of the Gulf states, surrounded by enemies, subject to boycotts and unrealistic demands, and struggling for its survival.”

Dershowitz reiterated repeatedly that he did not verify any of the information he was given, but was only relating what he was told. In this vein, he suggested that Qatari-Israeli normalization is on the horizon.

“I heard a lot of positive statements regarding Israel from Qatari leaders, as well as hints of commercial relationships between these isolated nations.”

Dershowitz also told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that he asked the emir, Sheikh Tamim, and other top Qatari officials to help release the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were killed during Israel’s 2014 assault on the Gaza Strip, and two other Israeli citizens currently being held there.

“They told me they’re trying,” Dershowitz said of the Qatari officials.

State-sponsored trips

Mike Huckabee, the Christian Zionist former governor of Arkansas, also made a trip to Qatar this month.

Huckabee, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 and 2016, is the father of Donald Trump’s White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Huckabee opposes any Israeli withdrawal from Jerusalem and has suggested Israel should annex the West Bank, which he calls “Judea and Samaria.”

In a tweet, he described Qatar as “surprisingly beautiful, modern and hospitable.”

Conservative radio host and Israel supporter John Batchelor was also invited by the Qatar government to broadcast his show from Doha earlier this month, where he was joined by former Republican congressman Thaddeus McCotter.

Batchelor released a series of episodes from Doha, some of them in conversation with top Qatari officials.

In one of the episodes, defense minister Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah discusses the illegality of the regional isolation of Qatar.

In a short episode upon his return, titled “Qatar as an island of stability and good cheer,” Batchelor reveals that “what they wanted to know was how America views Doha, Qatar.”

He expressed that “they’re an ally if we want them. They love [Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson too.”

Shortly after Dershowitz published his article, and Huckabee and Batchelor returned to the US, the White House announced that Trump spoke with the emir of Qatar. The White House stated that the emir thanked him for “Qatari action to counter terrorism and extremism in all forms” and that they “discussed areas in which the United States and Qatar can partner to bring more stability to the region, counter malign Iranian influence and defeat terrorism.”

All agree on Israel

Qatar has been at the center of regional grievances because of its support for the Palestinian political and resistance movement Hamas, whose leaders have long been hosted in Doha, among other reasons.

Yet despite these deep divisions, the regional states apparently still see eye to eye when it comes to cozying up to Israel.

In September, Haaretz reported that a Washington lobbying firm hired by Qatar was trying to arrange meetings with major American Jewish groups for the emir while he was in the US for the annual United Nations General Assembly.

This looked like an attempt to use Israel lobby influence in Washington to help Qatar push back against the efforts to isolate it.

“Engagement with Qatar can only be in the best interests of the United States and the Jewish community, as we cannot allow Qatar to be ostracized by its neighbors and pushed into Iran’s sphere of influence,” Nick Muzin, the lobbyist from the firm Stonington Strategies which was reportedly receiving $50,000 a month for its services, explained.

Conflicting reports

In Jordan, the Israeli embassy is set to reopen after a six-month crisis caused by an Israeli embassy guard shooting and killing two Jordanian nationals at a residential building in Amman in July.

According to Jordanian government spokesperson Muhammad al-Momani, Israel expressed its “deepest apology” over the incident.

But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu affirmed that he did not apologize, but merely “expressed regret.”

Netanyahu confirmed that “Israel will pay the Jordanian government compensation for the death of the two citizens, but will not award compensation to the family of the victims,” according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

The Jordanian government subsequently transferred the compensation – $5 million – to the families of the victims.

Jordanian officials also contested reports that Israel won’t prosecute the gunman, Ziv Hai Mordechai Moyal.

According to the Jordanian AlGhad newspaper, officials said the Israeli government had committed to pursuing legal measures against Moyal.

The Jerusalem Post, meanwhile, reported that the Israeli ambassador to Jordan, Einat Shlain, would be promoted and reassigned.

Moyal fatally shot 16-year-old Muhammed al-Jawawdeh as well as property owner Bashar Hamarneh.

The shooter was then spirited back to Israel under cover of diplomatic immunity before there could be a proper investigation.

Moyal was given what Jordan saw as a hero’s welcome by Netanyahu.

The Israeli prime minister also thanked Trump advisers Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt for their “behind-the-scenes efforts, which helped solve the crisis,” according to The Times of Israel.

The compensation and “apology” also covered the 2014 killing of Jordanian Judge Raed Zuaiter by Israeli troops at the Israeli-controlled crossing between Jordan and the occupied West Bank.

Despite the rift, Royal Jordanian is one of three carriers – the others being Turkish Airlines and Ethiopian Airlines – that will reportedly help Israel deport African refugees, after El Al pilots refused to do so.

Jordanians overwhelmingly oppose the reopening of the embassy, and there is also continued strong opposition to a deal Jordan signed last year to import gas from Israel.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated.

Tags

Comments

picture

Oh my god...this is all just too sick.

picture

Stealing someone else's identity does not give a thief a right to use the victim's identity. At the end of the day, a thief still remains who he is - a criminal, even if he pretends to be someone else.

I wish to reiterate our position, that these people have no valid connection with Jews/Judaism, no matter how many countries recognize their heretical state or move their embassies over there. The 1948 UN resolution did not turn Zionists into Jews. It is only Torah which could grant an individual that status or take it away from him.

picture

How very disappointing to hear Qatar has turned to courting the Zionist lobby. I was truly convinced that they'd be the only Gulf state to stick by their Palestinian brothers. Still, I believe that they'll continue to be the only GCC country who finance villages and send aid and materials in such large amounts. They're in a very precarious position because they are under an illegal blockade and believe that only the US has the power to end it, hence their cultivation of relations with powerful pro-Israel figures. It reminds you how sad the world is, when countries are practically presented with an ultimatum of throwing their support behind an Apartheid state or suffering under an illegal blockade.