Sympathy and support for Hamas are much lower in the Arab world than in past Israeli-Hamas conflicts–except in Qatar, whose government has a special relationship with Hamas. Indeed Hamas’s political leader Khaled Meshal spends most of his time in Qatar’s capital, Doha. Qatar has poured money into Hamas-ruled Gaza.
So what’s the American position on the negotiation of a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas? Do we want Egypt, with its hostility to the terrorist group and desire to weaken it, to be the negotiator, or Qatar? The answer should be obvious: we want Egypt to play this role, because Egypt will push Hamas harder, show it less sympathy, and try to ensure that it emerges from the war without any gains.
But that has not been the American position. Secretary of State Kerry has happily kept the Qataris in the loop from the start, as if whether they or the Egyptians play the key role is a matter of indifference to us. Israeli and Egyptian officials have noticed and have been at a loss to understand his position. “What is Kerry doing?” has been the tone of the comments. The United States should be insisting that Egypt, with its long border with Israel and its border with Gaza, must be the mediator.
“What is Kerry doing?” is, on this point, a fair question. We should be trying to marginalize the Qatari role, not preserve it or enhance it.