The U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords, which formalized relations concerning the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel on August 13, was a watershed in the record of Israel-Gulf relations. Since the UAE-Israel deal’s announcement, numerous experts have been debating which Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member, if any, would probable be future to stick to in Abu Dhabi’s footsteps. Possibly Qatar is the most intriguing a single to look at.
Even though doable, Doha will likely not normalize relations with Tel Aviv any time quickly thanks to many factors. These contain Qatar’s unique geopolitical place in the Middle East and the extent to which ‘soft power’ and themes linked to rights, dignity, and justice form Doha’s international coverage. Having said that, the odds are good that Qatar will carry on to pragmatically engage Israel even if formalization of relations is unlikely.
Qatar: The Gulf Region’s Enigma
Sieged by its immediate neighbors on the Arabian Peninsula because June 2017, Qatar has escaped from its neighbors’ orbits of geopolitical impact above the earlier three a long time. Today, Doha feels no obligation to conform to Riyadh or Abu Dhabi’s foreign coverage agendas as it did in the pre-blockade period. As a result, Qatar, unlike Bahrain, is under no political or economic stress to adhere to the UAE’s lead concerning normalization of relations with Israel. As an alternative, Qatar will solution Israel/Palestine in ways that cater to its distinctive pursuits.
As a geographically very small state with a tiny navy, Qatari clout is greatly tied to ‘soft electricity,’ which in Doha’s case is largely related to narratives related to social justice, human legal rights, and pan-Arabist leads to these kinds of as the Palestinian struggle. Qatari officials commonly use international discussion boards to converse on behalf of the Palestinians. Samuel Ramani, who is a doctoral researcher at the University of Oxford, maintains that the UAE-Israel offer could “burnish [Qatar’s] delicate electrical power as a defender of Palestinian rights.” In addition, due to the fact Trump announced the Abraham Accords on August 13, Qatari-owned media stores these as Al Jazeera have been concentrating greatly on the Palestinian point of view of the UAE-Israel deal, that includes many attendees who have been harshly condemning and criticizing the “peace deal” when broadcasting illustrations or photos of angry Palestinians exhibiting their rage toward the UAE.
According to Dr. Courtney Freer, a analysis fellow at LSE Middle East Centre, Qatar’s romantic relationship with Hamas, which Doha has hosted for years, would make it “difficult for Qatar then to change around and primarily acknowledge a normalized relationship with Israel under Netanyahu.” The Qataris “would eliminate a great deal of trustworthiness with Arab publics everywhere if they did straight away normalize relations with Israel following what the Emiratis did,” argued Dr. Freer. “So I would not foresee any key alter in Qatari coverage soon.” Nonetheless she also caveated her reviews by reminding us that “it’s 2020, so we in no way truly know.”
There is no preventing the Trump factor. Given that the Gulf crisis erupted in mid-2017, Qatari officers have been established to stay on superior phrases with the unpredictable American president. Dr. Mahjoob Zweiri, the Director of Gulf Scientific tests Centre at the University of Qatar, posited that “the UAE-Israel treaty may well add some political strain on Qatar when it arrives to relations with the U.S., primarily if Trump stays in the White Household.” Doha is undeniably involved about how the Abraham Accords could assist placement Abu Dhabi as the White House’s beloved lover in Gulf, specially if the UAE is the only GCC member to have a formalized bilateral connection with Tel Aviv.
On August 31, President Donald Trump’s advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner led U.S. and Israeli delegations, which flew from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi on the to start with Israeli business jet to make that flight. The intent of these delegations coming to the UAE was to cement the Abraham Accords in a collection of talks with Emirati officers. After leaving the UAE, Kushner frequented other GCC states, including Qatar.
Although in Doha on September 4, Kushner achieved with Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. Even with Kushner urging Qatar together with all other Arab states to normalize their relations with Tel Aviv, Qatar’s head of point out affirmed Doha’s determination to the two-state remedy in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative (API) of 2002 and numerous UN General Assembly resolutions. Place basically, Emir Tamim pressured that Qatar would not formalize its relationship with Israel except and right until a Palestinian point out is formed with a funds in East Jerusalem.
Despite Qatar coming beneath strain subsequent the UAE-Israel offer, nonetheless, it looks not likely that Washington’s influence would prompt Qatar to formalize diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv, at least any time quickly. “First, there is a incredibly potent feeling against whole normalization each at the well-liked and the elite degree,” according to an informed observer in Doha. “Second, [Qataris] really don’t need to, as they have a fantastic adequate document of pragmatically cooperating with Israel.” This delivers us to the fact that even while there is no Israeli embassy in Doha—nor a Qatari one particular in Tel Aviv—there is a Qatari-Israeli romantic relationship.
Doha’s Unofficial Marriage with Israel
In the 1990s, Qatar and other GCC states took steps to kind unofficial diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv. When Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa bin Hamad took the helm in 1995, Qatar commenced a new period defined by liberalization and adjustments in its foreign plan which incorporated exploration of dialogue with the Jewish Condition.
Pursuing Emir Hamad’s ascendancy to the throne, Qatar introduced Al Jazeera. This community broke pretty much each typical rule in the Arab world’s media landscape. Al Jazeera internet hosting Israeli authorities officers on its plans was one particular of lots of illustrations of the methods in which this satellite channel was exceptionally taboo. Also, in 1996, the Qataris allowed Israel to open a trade representative office environment in their cash. But officers in Doha responded to the Next Intifada of 2000 by shutting this office down—a shift which Qatar created less than some tension from Libya, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. However, Israel managed to preserve a “token presence” by using this mission in Qatar until 2009, when the Qatari govt shut it down permanently to demonstrate support for Palestinians amid Procedure Solid Direct, which resulted in 1,400 Palestinian deaths, which includes 300 youngsters.
However, the trade office’s long term closure did not spell the stop of Qatar’s engagement with the Jewish Condition. Four years immediately after Israel’s 22-working day assault on Gaza, Israel sent a delegation to Qatar to talk about the Gulf state’s potential desire in investing in Israel’s hello-tech industry. In 2019, an Israeli athlete received a gold medal at the 9th Artistic Gymnastics Entire world Cup Sequence which Doha hosted. The playing of the Israeli countrywide anthem and raising of the Israeli flag created a lot of headlines in the global press, top several analysts to place to it as a further more indication of thawing relations among Israel and GCC states. It also led to a lot of Qataris and other Arabs getting to be indignant and expressing their outrage on social media.
Arguably, the most crucial element of Qatari-Israeli engagement in excess of the several years has been Doha’s humanitarian assistance to Gaza, which the Qataris have accomplished in coordination with Israel. At the similar time, Qatar has performed a bridging purpose between Israel and Hamas, as effectively as amongst Washington and Hamas. Therefore, notwithstanding the Gulf condition and Israel possessing never formalized diplomatic ties, and Israeli politicians at times harshly condemning Qatar for its romantic relationship with Hamas, Tel Aviv values its pragmatic romance with Doha. Netanyahu did not overtly aspect with the blockading states versus Qatar just after the GCC disaster erupted in mid-2017, which attests to this level.
Final thirty day period, Mossad main Yossi Cohen was in get hold of with substantial-position officials in Doha for conversations about mounting tensions in Gaza between Israel and Hamas. On August 25, Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Emadi entered Gaza with a delegation for discussions with Hamas which were aimed at de-escalating violence among the Islamist team and Tel Aviv. Six days later on, Hamas and Israel successfully achieved a Qatar-brokered offer to protect against the violence from further escalating. In reaction, the President of Israel Reuven Rivlin expressed his gratitude to al-Emadi in a tweet which pointed out the Qatari diplomat’s “intensive endeavours to cease the escalation and to tranquil the situation.”
Seeking forward, this query about normalization of ties with the Jewish State will constitute a dilemma for Qatar, and 1 which Doha ought to deal with cautiously. Doha will probable have to stability its determination to the API and pan-Arab brings about on a single facet with pressures coming from the US on the other.
The odds are great that Qatar together with other GCC states will embrace rather of a ‘wait-and-see-approach’ to get notice of possible blowback thrown at Abu Dhabi. Nonetheless, with Qatar’s exclusive foreign coverage, officers in Doha will evaluate the alternative of establishing complete-fledged relations with Israel in techniques that are basically different from how the UAE’s leadership does so. Definitely if Doha would at any time normalize diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv, it would be in a Qatari, not Emirati, way.
Till that moment of formalized relations amongst Qatar and Israel, which is by no implies inescapable, Doha will keep on trying to enhance the scenario in Gaza. Executing so will need hard get the job done and not essentially flashy ceremonies, these types of as all those next the UAE-Israel offer. Nonetheless these efforts will maximize Qatar’s ‘soft power’ in the area and further institutionalize Doha’s role as a diplomatic bridge in the conflict-ridden Center East, to the profit equally of Palestinians and Israelis.
Giorgio Cafiero (@GiorgioCafiero) is the CEO of Gulf State Analytics (@GulfStateAnalyt), a Washington, DC-dependent geopolitical hazard consultancy.
Claire Fuchs (@Clairee_Fuchs) is an intern at Gulf Condition Analytics.