Israel needs Qatar's 'influence' over Hamas, analysts say after Netanyahu leak

Criticism of Israel's conduct in negotiations comes as CIA director is dispatched to attempt a new deal

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under intense pressure at home to release hostages. AP
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The backlash is continuing from a leak in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to criticise Qatar, a key broker in the Gaza hostage talks, describing it as “worse than the UN”.

Qatar, which called the alleged remarks in the leak “appalling”, accused Mr Netanyahu of deliberately obstructing ceasefire and hostage negotiations with Hamas for the release of more than 100 kidnapped Israelis currently held in Gaza, for personal political gain.

The public spat risks derailing talks for a new hostage deal between Israel and Hamas, which are entering a particularly critical phase, according to reports.

In a recording obtained by Israeli TV station Channel 12, and which emerged on Tuesday, Mr Netanyahu apparently described Qatar as “essentially no different from the United Nations … and even more problematic”.

“We need Qatar because of its influence on Hamas. This is the dilemma and trap that Israel finds itself in,” senior researcher Yoel Guzansky, of Israeli think tank INSS, told The National, describing Mr Netanyahu's alleged comments as a “mistake”.

“Even though Qatar is a problematic player, Israel should practise strategic patience,” he said.

Qatar hosts Hamas's senior leadership and therefore holds particular sway over the group.

But many Israelis remain suspicious towards Qatar, given its close relations with Hamas.

Israel vowed to destroy the group in October, after militants stormed southern Israel, killing and kidnapping hundreds of people.

Mr Guzansky criticised Israel's long-term strategy of facilitating Qatari funds to enter Gaza, a policy that has come under a great deal of scrutiny in Israel since the Gaza War.

“Israel should blame no one but itself,” Mr Guzansky said.

Al Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, published a new video on Friday showing three female Israeli soldiers detained in Gaza.

In the video, the captives blame Israel for the killing of other soldiers held hostage and urge their families to apply pressure on the government to reach an agreement with Hamas for their release.

US President Joe Biden is sending CIA director William J Burns to help broker the discussed agreement, which would release all hostages in Gaza and usher in the longest cessation of hostilities in Gaza since the war began in October, The Washington Post reported.

Prof Mehran Kamrava, of Georgetown University Qatar, says the timing of the Netanyahu leak is significant, just days before the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to take all measures to prevent a genocide in Gaza.

“This is jockeying on the part of the Israeli Prime Minister to deflect blame,” Mr Kamrava said

“The fact that the Americans came out immediately in support of Qatar’s invaluable role has been quite revealing,” he added.

A Qatari official told US network NBC that it would not be swayed by criticism from Israeli officials, saying its work is “about saving lives of the hostages and of Palestinian civilians and not about politicians”.

Updated: January 26, 2024, 6:32 PM