It was 3 P.M. on August 19, 2014. General Spiegel was sitting in the office of Israel's Deputy Chief of Staff Gad Eisenkot when the phone rang. On the other line was General Mordechai speaking from Cairo. "We have overcome the difficulties. We can now sign the cease-fire agreement. The Egyptians did an excellent job." Optimism started to spread. It was hardly fifteen minutes later, when the phone rang again. "Hamas has launched three rockets at Beer Sheva". It was a clear breach of the understanding to keep quiet until the evening to give the negotiations a chance.
- 'Qatar Threatened Meshal Over Truce'
- How Qatar Became an International Power
- Qatar and Turkey Aid Hamas’ War Crimes
- Israel Envoy Prosor Criticizes Qatar
- Lessons From Oslo, 20 Years Later
What had happened? It turned out that the Qataris had ordered Hamas’ Khaled Meshal not to dare to sign the Gaza cease-fire with Israel. In Paris, when John Kerry conferred with the Qataris and the Turks, it had seemed that Qatar was calling the shots. Now, they had been elbowed out of the picture and Egypt had become the deal-maker. This the Qataris could not permit. It would not matter how much Palestinian or Israeli blood would be spilt and how much damage caused. Qatari prestige was more important.
Why shouldn’t Qatar have the right to defend its prestige? Despite the high price for others, there are no costs involved for them themselves. The Americans need their air base in Qatar; Hamas and the other terrorists need their money. They dance with everybody, so nobody causes them harm. Why not?
If the United States cares both for its own national security and to lessen the suffering of the people of the Middle East, the time has come for the U.S., Europe and all other nations of goodwill to explain to the Qatari rulers precisely how unacceptable their behavior is. To make them understand that the willingness to spill the blood of others, to serve their own prestige, should indeed exact a high price from them. The time has come to end the Qatari war-mongering.
Qatar is acting as an Empire of Evil. It does so out of fear and the wish to buy a double re-insurance policy. The first re-insurance policy is legitimate: The rulers of Qatar, the al-Thani family, offer the United States important services, not least a regional base for the U.S. air force, a regional air-security control center and more.
The second Qatari re-insurance policy is less salubrious: To pay off the bad guys, finance their arms purchases, provide them with media services and more. When the al-Thani family will be made to understand that the damage caused by this second re-insurance policy wipes away the gains from the first one, that its costs will escalate beyond what can be borne, a policy based on the rationale of fear will give way to one based on reason. At that point the Empire of Evil can transform easily into an Empire of Goodwill.
What would be necessary for Qatar to make this scenario real, once it has taken the fundamental decision to end its support for terror? First and foremost, it must accept Egypt's leadership in the Arab world, and take a pro-active role in supporting President Sissi’s efforts to turn Egypt towards the direction of building prosperity for its people. Such a turnaround would rebuild sufficient confidence in Cairo as well as in Riyadh to permit Qatar to contribute to the economic state-building of Palestine, investing first in the West Bank, and subsequently - if Hamas accepts the Palestinian Authority’s leadership and submits to the principle of "one authority, one law, one gun" – it can help to reconstruct the economy of Gaza, too.
The al-Thani family would then discover that it is far more gratifying to do good, rather than evil.
Dr. Yair Hirschfeld is the academic director of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Strategic Dialogue at the Netanya Academic College and is Director General of the Economic Cooperation Foundation. He played a pivotal role in negotiating the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinian Authority of September 13, 1993.