Qatar, a tiny state of just over two and a half million people, has great influence in the Middle East. Ismail Haniyeh, the political leader of Hamas, resides there, but the emirate also maintains close ties with the West. “He has the ability to set the agenda for Hamas and, furthermore, he is one of the few actors who also has ties to Israel“, says David Hernández, professor of International Relations at the UCM.
This makes Qatar a mediator accepted by both parties. It already played that role during the Arab Springs, and Doha was the headquarters where the agreements between Afghanistan and the United States were signed. In this sense, Alberto Priego, professor of International Relations at the Pontifical University of Comillas, indicates that “Qatar has always played at being the mediator between the West and the Arab world, and that idea of being the one between modernity in the Arab countries is what has earned them a much more prominent role than what would correspond to them.
Qatari diplomacy has been key to opening the Rafah crossing, and has also intervened in the release of the first hostages kidnapped by Hamas. “We need to prevent the death toll from continuing to increase on both sides,” declared Majed Al-Ansari, Qatar’s Foreign Minister, on October 3 in Doha.
Indeed, negotiators from the United States and Iran have passed through Doha, and even the Israeli spy chief has met secretly with his Qatari counterparts. Mediation focuses on two objectives: “On the one hand, trying free the hostages in the power of Hamas, and on the other, promote the de-escalation of the conflict“explains David Hernández.
In Gaza, there would be 242 captives, 150 of them foreigners or dual nationals. In Israel, there are about 5,000 Palestinian prisoners. The families of the hostages ask for an exchange that, for now, the Israeli leader does not grant. “Netanyahu is very much on the ropes. Hamas’ hostage negotiation experience has not been good. Years ago a soldier who was kidnapped by Hamas was released in exchange for freeing 1,000 prisoners and that was not well received by the entire Israeli population. “, indicates Alberto Priego.
Hamas says 60 hostages dead by Israel’s bombings on the Strip. Without a ceasefire, the negotiation becomes complicated and time is running out.
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