Seaborne Clash Rocks Minister's Qatar Visit

Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer was in Doha, the capital of Qatar, yesterday for a meeting of the World Economic Forum. Ben-Eliezer, who was the Israeli representative to the forum's Global Redesign Summit, found himself being forced to explain Israel's actions with regard to the Gaza flotilla while in an Arab country.

Benjamin Ben-Eliezer

"To say that I am happy about it, with a million Arab eyes looking at me? It is not simple. All the Arab nations are here, and it is not at all easy," Ben-Eliezer said. "The Qataris are treating me with the utmost respect possible, their hospitality is excellent. But I know that my presence is not giving them any pleasure," he added.

Have the Qataris asked you to leave?

"They have not told me directly or personally anything on the matter." He added that he is well protected, although a scheduled meeting with a very senior Qatari official was canceled after the incident.

Ben-Eliezer, who speaks fluent Arabic, was interviewed on Al Jazeera television, which is based in Qatar. He is scheduled to return to Israel today, as planned.

Qatar, which is considered to be among the friendliest Arab states to Israel, closed the Israel Trade Representation Office in Doha after Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in January 2009.