Qatari reports of “breakthrough” in hostage talks sparks firestorm in Israel

Oct 25, 2023 6:53 pm | Ticker, Virtual Jerusalem

Amidst controversy, Qatari role in hostage negotiations marks significant progress but also complicates IDF action

Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Jassim Al-Thani claimed significant advancements in the efforts to secure the release of hostages from the Gaza Strip. The announcement came during a press conference where Al-Thani was joined by Turkey’s foreign minister.

“There has been a ‘breakthrough’ in the negotiations,” the Prime Minister declared, expressing optimism about the imminent release of more hostages currently under captivity in Gaza. However, he also took the opportunity to denounce criticism from Israeli officials, stating, “the statements of some senior Israeli officials who blame Qatar” are unfounded, choosing not to provide further details on the accusations.

In response to the developments, Tzachi Hanegbi, the head of Israel’s National Security Council, acknowledged Qatar’s pivotal involvement in the process. Posting on a social media platform, Hanegbi announced, “Qatar is becoming an essential party and stakeholder in the facilitation of humanitarian solutions. Qatar’s diplomatic efforts are crucial at this time.”

This acknowledgment comes at a crucial juncture, as Israel’s political-security cabinet plans to convene on the matter. An anonymous Israeli official cited the efficacy of ongoing discussions with Qatar, emphasizing, “We have a pipeline that has proven itself in the previous two releases of hostages. We want to reach a situation where all the hostages will come home.”

The recognition of Qatar’s diplomatic role raises eyebrows, considering its known association with Hamas leaders, including Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Mashal, who reside in Qatar. This relationship has positioned Qatar under scrutiny, particularly after the terrorist attack of October 7 orchestrated by Hamas.

Complicating the scenario further, former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has vehemently opposed the current administration’s stance. He argued, “Qatar is not an ‘essential partner for humanitarian operations and diplomatic operations’. Qatar is the enemy itself.” Bennett accused Qatar of financing and empowering ISIS, starkly contrasting Israel’s objective to dismantle Hamas. “How can we destroy the enemy if we give compliments to its main sponsor, for God’s sake?” he contended, highlighting the moral and strategic conflict in this approach.