Despite Gulf reconciliation, Qatar says no normalization with Israel

Qatar reconciles with Gulf Arabs, but says it’s not ready to adopt their normalization with Israel.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

A senior member of Qatar’s ruling family said that despite the reconciliation of Qatar with its neighboring Gulf Arab states, it has no intention of adopting their policy of normalizing relations with Israel, the English language news website Doha News reported Sunday.

“Qatar believes that if Israel is committed to peace, to end the occupation, the two-state solution, and the state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital, and if there is Arab approval, we accept that,” Qatar’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said in an interview on the Al Jazeera network that is based in Qatar.

Al-Thani said Qatar remains committed to the Arab Peace Initiative proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2002 that was adopted by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), of which Qatar is a member. That plan calls for Arab states to recognize Israel only after the Palestinian conflict has been resolved, a demand bypassed by neighboring Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates who signed the breakthrough Abraham Accords last year and now have diplomatic relations with Jerusalem.

Following the UAE and Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco both announced the establishment of normal relations with Israel, but Al-Thani said that had nothing to do with his country.

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“The Abraham Accords is a sovereign decision and we do not interfere in sovereign decisions,” Al-Thani said. Last month when progress was reported in talks to resolve the GCC crisis with Qatar, Al-Thani reiterated that as far as Qatar was concerned “the Gulf crisis has nothing to do with the Abraham Accords or any normalization with Israel.”

Qatar was boycotted by the GCC and Egypt, which broke off diplomatic relations in 2017 over Qatar’s close ties with Iran and its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic fundamentalist movement that is considered a terror group by those countries. Last week GCC members made amends with Qatar and re-established ties in an apparent bid to smooth relations with the incoming Biden administration in Washington.

Although Qatar and Israel do not have formal diplomatic relations, the two countries are known to cooperate, especially over Qatar’s support of the Gaza Strip that is controlled by the Hamas terror group, which was founded by Muslim Brotherhood members and is aligned with its ideologies.

Qatar is financing several large development projects in Gaza and more importantly delivers tens of millions of dollars in U.S. cash monthly for distribution to impoverished families. The families get $100 bills in order to help them survive, but also to keep pressure off Hamas under whose military rule the Gaza economy is stagnant with unemployment over 50%.

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“I think, if you look at Qatar’s reactions to normalization [with Israel], it is clear that everything should happen in coordination with the Palestinians,” Mahjoob Zweiri, Director of Gulf Studies Center at Qatar University, told Doha News, adding that stability in the GCC would result in more economic and political support to the Palestinians.