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Feud between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Qatar Stalling Release of Hostages held by Hamas

A feud between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Qatari government could jeopardise international efforts to end the war in Gaza and secure the release of around 130 hostages still trapped in terror tunnels by Hamas terrorists.

Qatar, which is home to Hamas’ senior political leaders, has been leading mediation efforts between Hamas and Israel, closely coordinating with the Biden administration, since the 07 October terrorist attack on southern Israel. This diplomacy allowed Qatar in November to successfully mediate the release of 110 Israeli and foreign hostages from Gaza.

Talks for the remaining hostages however have stalled in recent weeks, spurring criticism in Israel and the US that Qatar has not been doing enough to use its financial and diplomatic leverage over Hamas. Qatar, in addition to providing Hamas diplomatic backing, also ranks among the terrorist group’s largest funders.

In leaked comments to some of the hostage families this week, Netanyahu, allegedly criticised Qatar’s mediation efforts and queried the Biden administration’s reliance on Doha. 

“When I talk about Qatar, you don’t hear me thank Qatar, why? Because Qatar, as far as I’m concerned, is not significantly different from the U.N., is not significantly different from the Red Cross, and to some extent is even more problematic. However, I’m willing to use any mediator now who can help me bring them (the hostages) home.”

Netanyahu also slammed the Biden administration for extending the lease of the Al Udeid Air Base, a major US military base in Qatar, for another 10 years without first securing the release of all the remaining hostages. The military base which Qatar has spent billions revamping is situated just outside the capital of Doha and has been vital to American operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria.

Defence Seretary Lloyd J. Austin III and Qatar Defence Minister Khaled Al Attiyah at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, 19 December 2023. (Source – Alexander Cook / US. Air Force)
Major Samuel Richardson pointing to a future site plan map of Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, in 2022. (Source – Stars and Stripes)

Netanyahu urged Western nations to apply increased pressure on Qatar, emphasising its influence and sway over Hamas.

Qatar’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Majed Al Ansari, in turn, condemned Netanyahu’s remarks on social media platform X, writing, “we are appalled by the alleged remarks attributed to the Israeli Prime Minister in various media reports about Qatar’s mediation role”.

He continued, “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 prioritising saving innocent lives, including Israeli hostages.” 

Responding to Al Ansari’s statement, Israel’s far-right finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, accused Doha of being a “patron of Hamas” and “largely responsible” for the 07 October atrocities.

He also emphasised that the emirate will have no role in post-war Gaza; “One thing is clear: Qatar will not be involved in what happens in Gaza the day after the war”.

Isabella Egerton is a leading intelligence specialist and investigator focused on state led level security investigations. She has a proven track record in running complex multi-jurisdictional intelligence projects around the globe.