Qatar deceived Arab states over trade office, says Israeli politician

Eli Avidar, a member of the Knesset and former representative to Doha, says Qatar lied about shutting down the Israeli trade outpost

In this May 5, 2018 photo, a giant image of the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, adorns a tower in Doha, Qatar. At a time when the U.S. hopes to exert maximum pressure on Iran, a regional bloc created by Gulf Arab countries to counter Tehran looks increasingly more divided ahead of the anniversary of the diplomatic crisis in Qatar. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
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Qatar deceived Arab countries over Doha’s Israeli trade office, telling other counties it had shuttered the bureau when it maintained the ties, Israel’s former representative in the country said.

Israeli Knesset member Eli Avidar, who represented the country in Doha from 1999 to 2000, said Qatar had asked him to stay home and not speak publicly during a conference of Arab states.

“Qatar lied to all Islamic countries and said that it closed the Israeli office,” he told Sky News Arabia on Friday.

Qatar opened an Israel trade office in Doha in 1996 and the two countries have trade, cultural and sporting links. Publicly, Doha has closed or downgraded relations on several occasions due to Israeli offensives on Gaza but Mr Avidar’s claims suggest that ties were maintained even during the public spats.

He added that Qatar had spoken staunchly against any country opening ties with Israel and used Al Jazeera news network to blast any such move while secretly maintaining its own trade office link.

"This is Qatar,” he said. “We are used to it."

Mr Avidar also said that Turkey was acting hypocritically over the UAE-Israel deal to normalise relations in exchange for a halt to the annexation of Palestinian lands. He pointed out that while Turkey criticised the move and threatened to withdraw its ambassador to Abu Dhabi, it had relations with Israel.

“Where is the Turkish ambassador … he is in Tel Aviv and our ambassador is in Ankara meaning they want to preserve relations with Israel,” he said.

Mr Avidar has been vocal in criticising Turkey, Qatar and Iran in the Knesset. He described Iran as waging a "devastating war" in the region through its proxy forces.
He said the UAE-Israel agreement would contribute to "strengthening the front against Iran and its agents".