Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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The Kerry-Qatar Axis

by Elliott Abrams
July 18, 2014

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.

Post a Comment 17 Comments

  • Posted by Peter Rush

    The Egyptian régime under El Sisi is as compromised an intermediary as the US itself, which is held hostage by its Zionist-controlled Congress.

    Kerry is well advised to keep at least one party which has the trust of the Gazan rulers in the loop. That party is indeed Qatar, and they have supported Gaza financially and politically in the hope of preventing even more fundamental radicalism taking root in the enclave. Israel has made normal life absolutely impossible in Gaza and has continued to defy both the UN and its patron, the US, by persisting in the construction of settlements in the West Bank and confiscation of Palestinian property in East Jerusalem. Israel will find a way to make a Palestinian state an unworkable jigsaw.

    Qatar had the courage to invite Israel to establish a diplomatic presence in its capital to enhance the prospects of real peace discussions. Israel played games as usual. Netanyahu has no interest in talking. He is a warmongering neo-colonialist who will sabotage any easing of the Palestinians’ disenfranchisement.

  • Posted by SPetrarca

    It would be nice to consider Mr. Abrams’ well-considered and experience-rich observations on their merits, but alas, as with too many discussions on Israel these days, his post seems to have brought out the anti-Semites instead.

  • Posted by EMT

    Dear Mr. Abrams, I am appalled that a comment from one of your readers is using anti-Semitic language, while everyone can express himself without hurting anybody.

    Netanyahu is a legitimate leader and was elected democratically. Those who criticize him personally just don’t know him. After all he is dealing with terrorists. The United States did not talk with Bin-Laden. They just killed him.

    In reference to Qatar, it has been known to participate in various strange transactions. I wonder who trafficked the Libyan arms to shady forces, including Hamas? Who dealt with the arms in Benghazi when Ambassador Stevens was murdered?

    I understand that Kerry has to take into consideration that the US has its Middle Eastern military base in Qatar. Where was Qatar’s voice when scores of rockets were launched from Gaza on the Israeli civil population?

    We should not forget how many times Hamas created problems. Not only with Israel, but also against their Palestinian brothers, whose officials it has killed or kicked-out from Gaza.

    Those who want peace do not kidnap and kill youths. I still believe that peace is possible, but only under better circumstances. In WWII Germany and Japan had to be destroyed before peace could be established.

  • Posted by Luis

    A cousin of mine´s nephew on his wife´s side works for a politician in Washington, who I cannot name, and this politician hobnobs with Jean François Kerree and his lovely wife Teresa, and told his wife, that is the politician told his wife within earshot of my cousin´s nephew, that Kerree, in his spare time, just walks around the house saying over and over, “What is Kerree doing,” so it appears that not even Kerree knows what Kerree is doing. But we will be rid of Obama and Kerree–the sooner the better, then we will disinfect the White House, clean up Obama´s and Kerree´s messes, and return to being the most exceptional and the greatest country in the history of man.

  • Posted by Harold Pomerantz

    Qatar is a friend of Hamas and therefore no friend of Israel. Are they not compromised in the same way as the United States and Egypt. It seems that countries must support the Palestinians in their conflict against Israel or remain neutral to be able to take part in “the peace process”. Now the big question is why does anyone support Hamas, a terrorist organization in their war against democratic Israel? It is truly a no-brainer. When one side wants to see the destruction of the other there are no prospects for any peace agreement.

  • Posted by John

    One of the basic prerequisites of mediation is that the mediator is acceptable to both sides. This often requires parties to perceive the mediator as neutral and impartial. Egypt has made illegal Hamas’s ally the Muslim Brotherhood. Given this, it should be fairly straight forward to work out why the US and others are searching for other potential mediators with greater legitimacy amongst the Hamas leadership. Elliott, I suggest you research the basics of mediation!

  • Posted by Beatrix139

    Israel and Qatar have been meeting secretly since Qatar broke off relations with Israel during the 1st intifada. Israel is receptive, and Qatar wants the Israeli market for their LNG, but Netanyahu has concerns about Qatar’s financial support for Hamas. And Israel does not want to get into the battle between Egypt and Qatar for forming the peace agreement between Israel and Hamas. Egypt is an ally, and Israel and Qatar want each others business.

    Netanyahu leads a country of 6 million Jews in the Mideast surrounded by ½ billion Muslims. The last thing Netanyahu wants is war.

    The problem Hamas has is seeing Israel as a “colonial power.” That’s why they fight Israel the way the Americans fought the English, Belgium Congo fought Belgium, the Mau Mau fought the English, and the Algerians fought the French. Fight, fight, fight, be prepared to die by the millions and eventually the colonists will go home.

    Except that Jews have been in Israel for over 3,000 years. The European Jews came not as colonizers, but as refugees from the Nazi concentration camps, and the gas ovens. The Mideast Jews were thrown out of the Muslims countries they’d lived in for thousands of years. The native Jews, the European and Mideastern Jewish immigrants have no where else to go. They are home.

  • Posted by Robert Davis

    Israel does NOT need any mediator! Least of all kerry! The PM is doing a good job this time but hopefully he will NOT leave Gaza when it is over : Gaza must be EMPTIED of its arab population at least the northern half and a strip of at least 4 kms from north to south and a Jewish population replace the arab one. When arabs are crowded in the south,they will accept to leave Gaza and cross to egypt no matter whether egypt wants them or not. They WILL find a way now they know what it looks like when IDF shells them for real!

  • Posted by sylvie schapira

    What about the $11 billion arms deal that Obama has just signed with Qatar? Is this not handing Hamas weapons? Why has this been allowed to happen? And how can this not have a major influence on the war between Hamas and Israel?

  • Posted by Jon Steelman

    Please explain why the word “Hamas” does not appear in your comment, and how Qatar has a stake in the proceedings when Egypt does not. Acknowledgement or disclosure of basic geopolitics of the region both generally and specifically as to the current battles is necessary; otherwise illusory concepts such as “Zionist-controlled Congress” and “Palestinian state” are just that, illusions. Though your host here Mr. Abrams is always gracious as to the opinions of others, you are in the wrong type of forum to push propaganda based on false premise and unfounded concepts. Try the Huff Post.

  • Posted by Jon Steelman

    Mr. Rush: Please explain why the word “Hamas” does not appear in your comment, and how Qatar has a stake in the proceedings when Egypt does not. Acknowledgement or disclosure of basic geopolitics of the region both generally and specifically as to the current battles is necessary; otherwise illusory concepts such as “Zionist-controlled Congress” and “Palestinian state” are just that, illusions. Though your host here Mr. Abrams is always gracious as to the opinions of others, you are in the wrong type of forum to push propaganda based on false premise and unfounded concepts. Try the Huff Post.

  • Posted by EMT

    We should tell Qatar, “We cannot do any business with you, as long as you keep Khaled Meshaal in your country. You are now isolated in your area and Turkey cannot help you either.” Obama and Kerry are the only ones who created this mess by wanting to save Hamas, knowing well that it is part of the Muslim Brotherhood that the Egyptians chased away from the government of Egypt. Mr. President, you and Kerry cannot help Hamas and you know it. By wanting to save Hamas, which is a terrorist group, you are damaging your name and making your friends enemies. Are you sure about what Qatar is doing and why the Gulf states do not like Qatar?

    I believe that Abou Mazen (Abbas), the leader of the Palestinians, went too far or maybe we the Americans or President Obama or Kerry pushed him too far and coached him what to accept and what not. And finally by wanting to save Hamas, we the USA became partners with a terrorist Organization? And now we have a pretext to save the Palestinian people. What about the Israelis, the women, the children and the Arab citizens – all those can be killed by the rockets with which the terrorists aim at the entire population indiscriminately. But the way we handled this affair was neither intelligent nor wise. We will lose the Egyptians, the Saudis, the Gulf States and Israel, to gain what? If we want to save the population, we could work towards a cease-fire for a day or two, subject that we control Hamas, as they are the ones who put civilians in danger by storing the weapons in houses and in hospitals.

    I congratulate the President of Egypt, Mr. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, for being wise, sincere and just. First for proposing a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, which Israel accepted, and Hamas refused. By doing so, Hamas insulted El-Sisi.

    I also congratulate the Prime Minister of Israel, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu for his patience and his calm and for being the first to accept the cease-fire. I feel that he showed a lot of restraint and diplomacy, trying to avoid the conflict. I can say that today he no longer has a choice about the ground operations, as it became obvious that the tunnel infrastructure is a direct threat to neighboring Israelis villages which are exposed to be infiltrated from the tunnels by Hamas operatives. Mr. President, could we accept that Cuba which is a friend of the Russians put Russian missiles in its back yard, which could threaten the United States?

  • Posted by a.h

    Interesting to see that Mr. Abrams is clearly filtering his comments as much as possible to prevent people from calling him out on his frequent factual slips and over the top bias.

    I’d love to hear Mr. Abrams respond to his own role in making this mess in the first place:

    http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/04/gaza200804

  • Posted by EMT

    How come that our president who gave instructions to kill Bin-Laden, are now supporting Khaled Mashal, the terrorist head of the Hamas, who is conveniently hiding in Qatar, but has caused the death of many innocent people, and our president make him the partner of the US? Mr President Don’t he feel that there is a conflict of interest? I am sure he will agree with me that Israel cannot live in peace, while leaving Hamas’s terror capabilities intact in its backyard.

  • Posted by Giorgio Cafiero

    If Abrams has such a moral problem with Qatar maintaining ties with Hamas, I would like to know the answers to the following:

    a) How does Mr. Abrams view the U.S. military having its main military base (USCENTCOM) stationed in Qatar (which made the gulf emirate a pivotal actor in the 2003 invasion of Iraq that Abrams’ former boss launched)?

    b) Does Mr. Abrams agree with what Mitt Romney said in the 2012 debate, that Washington should turn to Qatar (in addition to Saudi Arabia) in the effort to topple Bashar al-Assad from power in Damascus?

    c) Does Mr. Abrams oppose the USD 11 billion arms transfer that the US and Qatar did last month?

  • Posted by Elliott Abrams

    A brief reply: I would like to see us begin the process of moving our air base out of Qatar.

  • Posted by Andy Maui

    Qatar doesn’t care about what the United States thinks about anything.

    You are talking about sanctions against the richest country in the world? It use to be Luxembourg but now it’s Quatar. They don’t care. They are completely indifferent to us and they rest of the world is joining them ( as in The World Cup is going to be in Qatar not in U.S. as we had hoped) … The Pentagon sent $11 billion dollars of weapons to Hamas to fight the war over the Gaza Strip, to ISIS in Syria and to the Taliban in Afghanistan through Qatar. Our weapons companies like Raytheon built them and the banks paid for them. “We have seen the enemy and the enemy is us…Pogo. Their will never be peace in the Middle East. There is just too much money in killing each other.

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