Letters and Editorials 4545 Views by Dr. Abdul Ruff

Qatar and Palestine to Israel: Reconciliation, Realignment or Adjustment?

Palestinians have been living like subhumans as they remain besieged and terrorized by Israeli military forces everywhere in Palestine. And the Palestinians have been facing existential threat for their enemies.

The Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani arrived in the Gaza Strip - the first head of state to visit since the Islamist group Hamas came to power there in 2007. Khalifa Al Thani is expected to launch a $254m (£158m) construction project to help rebuild the war-torn Palestinian territory.

Qatar has now become one of Hamas's main benefactors since it fell out with its financial backers Iran and Syria. The visit is a sign of the increasing ties between the Gulf state and Hamas. Qatar, one of the richest countries in the Arab world, has become an important source of revenue for Hamas in the aftermath of its fallout with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Sheikh Hamad flew to Egypt and cross into Gaza by car amid tight security. The Hamas interior ministry had said it had a "well-prepared plan" to protect the emir, deploying thousands of security personnel and blocking roads to Gaza City's stadium, where he was expected to address a crowd.

The Emir became the first foreign leader to make an official visit to the Gaza Strip since 1999 when Hamas chief Ismail Haniyya escorted him down a red carpet rolled out for his welcome.

The political bureau of Hamas had been based in Damascus since 1999, and relations appeared to be good until anti-government protests erupted throughout Syria in March 2011. In February, Hamas announced that its political leadership had been moved from Syria to Egypt and Qatar, because it could no longer effectively operate because of the unrest in its long-time ally.

While actively supported Brotherhood in Egyptian struggle, Hamas initially neither publicly endorsed the Syrian government's handling of the uprising nor repudiated it. The Sunni Islamist movement was torn between risking the financial backing of Syria and its ally, Iran, and supporting Syria's majority Sunni community, which has borne the brunt of the crackdown by the Alawite-dominated security forces. In February, the head of the Hamas government in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, declared his support for "the heroic people of Syria who are striving for freedom, democracy and reform".

The Palestinian Authority (PA) expressed reservations about the emir's visit. The PA and Israel have something they can agree upon: neither side is pleased by the visit by the Emir of Qatar to the Gaza Strip. Some on both the Palestinian Authority and Israeli sides expressed the “fear” that the visit will give legitimacy to the bifurcation of Palestinian territories. A Fatah official said that neither Hamas nor the Emir extended an invitation to include Fatah in the day’s events.

Gaza’s Hamas rulers are presenting the visit as a sign of its acceptance by the mainstream Arab world and as a sort of official end to the blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel in 2007. Hamas, which won parliamentary elections in 2006, ousted forces loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Gaza during clashes in 2007 and set up a rival government. In response, Israel tightened its blockade on the coastal territory, which has had a crippling effect on Gaza's economy. Abbas said the Palestinian Authority welcomed Qatar's efforts to help the people in Gaza but also stressed "the necessity to preserve the legitimate representation of the Palestinian people". Abbas called on Sheikh Hamad to "urge Hamas in Gaza to go for reconciliation and to end this split".

PA leadership and Israel are angered by the element of acceptance and the recognition Hamas is receiving by the Emir’s visit. An Israeli official even pointed out that the Emir has never made an official visit to the West Bank. The policy underlying the visit is the belief by Gulf State leaders that Hamas can be lured away from its growing allegiance to Iran.

In order to divert the global attention from Emir visit, Israel escalated violence along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip the border and the level of violence continues to rise. Two Gaza-based terrorists were killed in a pair of strikes carried out by the Israeli air force, one in the northern town of Beit Lahia and one at Beit Hanoun. Hamas has sworn to exact vengeance on Israel.

Following the Emir’s visit Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian militant movement controlling Gaza, are said to have reached an unofficial ceasefire after days of deadly attacks. The truce was negotiated with the help of Egypt and appears to be holding, with no reports of fire overnight.

Israeli air strikes on targets in the Gaza Strip in that period have killed at least six Palestinians, while five Jewish state militants have been just injured in Israel since Monday in one of the heaviest barrages of rocket-fire for months.  The ongoing war perpetrated by Israel has been able to protect criminal Jews but Palestinians are killed. Schools were closed on both sides of the border for fear of more attacks. Hamas government said the movement did not want the fighting to continue with families in Gaza busy preparing for this weekend's Eid Muslim holiday.

Qatar as emerging ME power

Qatar ended its recent National Day celebrations with a spectacular fireworks display, a further sign of the confidence and optimism that permeates the entire nation.

With its neighbours in turmoil and the West distracted by economic woes, this tiny emirate has the money, the connections and willingness to play a much greater role on the world stage in the coming years.

Obviously, Qatar is one of the world's richest nations and its economy, heavily dependent on oil and gas, is expected to grow by about 18% in 2011. Many lament in Qatar that the Arab world has fallen behind in terms of human development, in terms of technological advancement. So the hope is that we'll be moving towards a more stable and more development orientated region than it currently is.

It is estimated to have spent hundreds of millions of dollars so far on Libya. The capital of the tiny but wealthy Gulf Emirate has transformed itself with dizzying speed from a dreary desert port into a kind of Manhattan with sand. Everywhere in Doha, the downtown skyline compels the eye upward - and each skyscraper seems more improbable than the last. One resembles a towering goblet girdled in what looks like gigantic chain-link fencing fashioned from blue neon. The scale of the buildings - and the speed with which they were built - proclaims the determination of Qatar to build a global profile to match the skyline.

There has been an astonishing growth and actually an explosion of growth and I think with that kind of economic wealth, Qatar started to be interested in having much more influence, first in the Arab world and then internationally." This is not merely about some metaphorical aspiration to influence - Qatar has moved with determination to build a kind of power which will be felt first through the Middle East and then in the wider world.

At the foundation of it all lies fabulous wealth.

Qatar for the last 20, 30 years has been providing a home for a lot of the individuals who had to run away from places like Libya and Tunisia. These invariably have come from Islamist backgrounds. As these people get elected, Qatar has long-standing relationships with them."

The flagship of Qatari influence across the Middle East is the satellite TV channel al-Jazeera, which sees itself as the station which transmitted the anger of the Arab street directly into the palaces where crumbling dictators trembled behind high walls.

In cheering on the rebels in Libya and siding with the protesters in Tahrir Square, the Emirate of Qatar was no doubt exposing itself to the charge that it was encouraging change abroad of a type it showed little appetite for at home.

Al-Jazeera has been a force for good - and a powerful advertisement for Qatari wealth and influence. "The media is all about soft power," he says. "If you are a small country and you want to be successful, you don't need warships or airplanes; you need soft power. "Soft power is media, science and culture... I believe that the Emir was aware of this and I believe that's a great vision."

If it's Qatari diplomacy and soft power which has been one of the moving forces in the Arab Spring, it's the wealth that springs from liquefied natural gas which is raising its profile in the wider world.

As Europe endures what it hopes will be a short-term crisis, Qatar's powerful sovereign wealth fund is seeking long-term opportunities. There's a good chance that many Europeans and Americans had never heard of the Emirate until it won the right to hold the football world cup in 2022. Qatar has already built something of a reputation as the country that can talk to anyone - to Hamas and Israel as well as to the US and Iranians.

Emir of Qatar

The Emir of Qatar has been firmly enhancing Qatar’s diplomatic and economic profile. He has been a bold and assertive player in the Arab Spring. He sent guns, money and men to help the rebels fighting to unseat Col Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. And he has called for armed Arab intervention to stop Syria from spiralling into bloody chaos.

The very presence in Doha of the Middle East expert Gerd Nonemann, as dean of the local branch of Georgetown University, is testament to the ability of Qatari wealth to attract leading foreign colleges to the Gulf. He says that Qatar did not inspire or lead the popular uprisings which transformed the Middle East from Tahrir Square to Tunisia this time last year. It just recognised that change was inevitable and was swifter and sharper in its reactions than anyone else.

Last year has been something of a coming of age for this small Gulf nation.

The mischievous Libya TV station in Doha was set up in the early days of the Libyan conflict to counter the propaganda being broadcast on Libyan state TV by Col Muammar Gaddafi's supporters; it is still being completely funded by the Qatari government. It strongly backed the rebels in Libya and has led regional criticism of the crackdowns on protesters by Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh."We have to contribute with whatever we have - politics, money or by supporting military action, whatever it takes to support other nations," said one Qatari reveller.

Qatar also joined the Nato-led military action in Libya, helped train the rebels, flew the injured to Doha for medical treatment and provided humanitarian aid.

Qatar is also one of America's key Arab allies. That has led some in Gaza to accuse the Gulf State of meddling in Palestinian politics. Qatar was the first Arab nation to call publicly for military intervention in Syria to topple the government. It was the main Arab player in the Nato-led coalition in Libya and has played a major part in trying to resolve regional conflicts. The country maintains cordial relations with both the US and Iran, and - even more unusually for an Arab state - with both Hamas and Israel. Most recently, Qatar has been involved in the reconciliation process between Hamas and its long-time rival faction, Fatah, which dominates the Palestinian Authority and is in power in the West Bank.

Like neighbouring Saudi Arabia, the royal family of Qatar and most indigenous Qataris follow the ultra-conservative Wahhabi school of Islam. Some of the key big powers in this region - Egypt, Saudi Arabia - are in transition, so Qatar has found itself with the ability, the leadership and the money to play a role, Unburdened by any threats or major concerns at home, Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani has been willing to step into the role usually occupied by other Arab leaders, and to use his time and money to reshape the region.

Shaikh, however, warns against reading too much into the connections, saying Qatar is not embarking on some ideological push. There are concerns in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt that Qatar is using the unrest to support and finance the rebels.

Common Agenda against Hamas

Hamas, the ruling party that governs only Gaza, is not involved and not even part of the peace process, which has seen little US engagement since direct negotiations collapsed two years ago taking heavy tolls in lives and material in Palestine.

Having failed to do away with Hamas party and government, now the enemies have joined hands against it. But that is also against all Palestinians and for Israeli criminals. Emir's visit has called the PLO-Israeli bluff.

Already angered by the announced plans of the Emir of Qatar to visit the Gaza Strip, both the Palestinian Authority and Israel saw their fears play out on Tuesday as the Emir offered a strong endorsement of Gaza’s elected Hamas rulers. Both  Fatah and  Israel seemed bemused by the visit.

The purpose of the visit was to kick-off a massive Gaza reconstruction effort seeded by $250 million from Qatar, which argues that support for Hamas is a way of weaning it from the Iranian camp.  In the first visit by a national leader to Gaza, the PA saw the legitimization of the bifurcation of the Palestinian territories between Hamas-controlled Gaza and Fatah-controlled West Bank.

In remarks clearly seen by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyya as an endorsement of the long Hamas tradition of violence against the Jewish state, the Emir blasted Israel, charging that it “continues every day to change the face of Palestinian land through its settlement activities and Judaization in the occupied West Bank and especially in Jerusalem.”

Qatar's emir has called for Palestinian unity and urged the Islamist group and rival Palestinian group Fatah, which holds power in the West Bank, to reconcile. He pledged $400m (£250m) for building projects in the Gaza Strip, which has been ravaged by conflict with Israel.

The Emir did, rightly, criticize the failure of the two factions to reconcile, asking rhetorically whether “you realize that your division is the source of greater harm to your cause and the cause of all Arabs.” He admonished that, “It is time you end the chapter of differences and open a wide chapter for reconciliation.”

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya said the trip had broken Israel's economic and political blockade of Gaza. He said the visit showed Gaza was "not alone". Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya said the trip had broken Israel's economic and political blockade of Gaza.

At Gaza's Rafah crossing after arriving from Egypt in a vast motorcade, the emir was met by the Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Hamas diplomacy as well.

After the US-Israel sponsored civil war in 2007in Palestine, Fatah leader and Palestinian Authority President Abbas set up a rival Fatah government that has been recognized by Israel and USA. The elected Hamas government is called by these fascist outfits as
a “terrorist group”.  "By hugging Hamas publicly, the emir of Qatar has thrown peace under the bus.", but what peace the Zionist criminals talk about?

An Observation

By some measures, Qatar is the richest nation in the world as determined by the share of GDP per head. Any country that finds itself in that position will perhaps naturally crave the diplomatic clout that comes with it.

The ongoing WW-III unleashed by NATO terror gangs under USA-UK terror twins has exposed anti-Islamic intent of Arab and other Muslim nations. Like other Sunni nations do, perhaps also Qatar believes the support of NATO terrorism would enable it grow stronger, economically and technologically and hence they pour in lot of money for NATO terror attack on Muslims. 

It's about to put those diplomatic credentials to the test, allowing the Taliban to open an office in Doha in the hope that might lead to talks with the US - which has a huge airbase here - over the future of Afghanistan.


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