In recent days, Netanyahu and his political allies have been launching attacks against Qatar. This trend is far from trivial and reveals a new aspect of the Israeli Prime Minister’s uncompromising strategy, according to political analyst Karim Sader.

On Wednesday January 24, Israeli Channel 12 broadcast an audio recording of Netanyahu with hostage families, in which he deemed the role of Doha “problematic.” He said, “I have no illusions about them.” The Qataris “have means to pressure. Why? Because they finance them.”

The next day, Minister of Finance and figure of the Israeli far-right, Bezalel Smotrich, accused the wealthy emirate of being “responsible” for the October 7 attack. Qatar “is the sponsor of Hamas and is largely responsible for the massacres committed by Hamas against Israeli citizens,” he declared on X.

Israel’s and Hamas’s Preferred Contact

Since the beginning of the conflict, Qatar has been considered the main intermediary in negotiations between Hamas and Israel.

Doha has not only hosted the political leadership of the Palestinian group since 2012 but has also provided hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to the Gaza population in recent years. Additionally, Qatar finances the budget of the enclave’s administration.

At the same time, the Gulf monarchy also maintains indirect ties with Israel. Between 1996 and 2009, the latter had a commercial representation office in Doha.

While this channel was closed following the Israeli offensive in Gaza in 2009, the two countries continued to maintain informal links. Qatar has thus become the main interlocutor between both parties in times of sudden tension.

Netanyahu’s Political Stunt

In this context, why is the Netanyahu government now targeting them? According to political analyst and Gulf specialist Karim Sader, if Netanyahu “seeks to discredit Qatar, it is primarily a personal agenda because he has every interest in sabotaging the negotiations to continue his headlong rush.”

Indeed, Netanyahu shows “bad faith” here, observes Sader. As the longest-serving Israeli Prime Minister, he is well aware of these links. “Israel is an accomplice” of Qatar, notes the political analyst, specifying that the “domestication” of Hamas by Doha has long played into the hands of the Israeli state by providing humanitarian aid and salaries for the enclave’s administration.

“Netanyahu is politically discredited by the October 7 attack, the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, and the fate of the hostages, several of whom were killed by the Israeli Army. That’s why he is trying to shift the blame to the Qataris via Hamas,” says Sader. According to him, this is a political move for Netanyahu to absolve himself of his failures when the time comes to be held accountable.

“This is an internal policy,” emphasizes the Gulf specialist, recalling that in the leaked recording in question, Netanyahu was addressing the families of the hostages, who were particularly critical of him.

Qatar’s Legitimacy at Stake

If Netanyahu succeeds in sabotaging the negotiations, “these will be points lost by Qatar,” considers Sader. According to him, the legitimacy of the emirate on the diplomatic and mediation fronts is at stake, especially with this “balancing act” posture.

Indeed, on the one hand, Doha is the interlocutor for Islamist groups like Hamas, and on the other, it hosts CENTCOM, the US military command for the Middle East, at the Al-Udeid airbase. “If this initiative fails, the image of mediators built by the Qataris could take a hit,” notes Sader.

Moreover, other actors would seek to take Qatar’s place, the analyst notes: Turkey, Jordan, Egypt… Many are attracted by the prospect of diplomatic success. “Some countries would like to see this small emirate put in its place, such as the United Arab Emirates or Saudi Arabia.” Indeed, these have recently become more active in the “mediation market,” to use Sader’s words.

Qatar Grows Stronger if Netanyahu Fails

On the other hand, a victory for Doha could strengthen its role as a star mediator in the region. One example at this level is the Lebanese issue. As a joint endeavor, a weakening of Qatar would have no impact on the Quintet (also made up of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, France, and the United States), according to Karim Sader.

“Since the end of the blockade of the emirate by Saudi Arabia in 2021, the two parties have agreed to have no competition in this regard,” notes the political analyst. On the contrary, a diplomatic victory “would strengthen its position” on the Lebanese issue, he adds. Sader further notes that Doha could now boast not only of having made progress in Gaza but also of being able to resolve the crisis along the Blue Line.