After reports of leaked recording, Qatar says attributed remarks show Israeli PM ‘obstructing mediation efforts’ and ‘prioritising’ his career.
Qatar has rebuked Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after he allegedly criticised the Gulf country’s role as a mediator in the Gaza war as “problematic” in a leaked recording.
At a meeting this week with the families of captives being held in Gaza, Netanyahu blamed Qatar for financing Hamas and said he was upset at a decision by the United States to extend the presence of a military base in the Gulf state, according to Israeli news outlet Channel 12.
“These remarks if validated, are irresponsible and destructive to the efforts to save innocent lives, but are not surprising,” Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Majed al-Ansari said in a post on X on Wednesday.
Qatar, along with Egypt, has repeatedly engaged in negotiations to broker a truce in Gaza and ensure the entry of humanitarian aid into the besieged enclave. In November, it helped secure a weeklong pause in fighting in which more than 100 captives were released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.
The Gulf state remains involved in talks aimed at securing a new deal for the release of roughly 130 captives still being held by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups.
Al-Ansari said Netanyahu’s leaked comments were detrimental to those efforts.
“If the reported remarks are found to be true, the Israeli PM would only be obstructing and undermining the mediation process, for reasons that appear to serve his political career instead of prioritizing saving innocent lives, including Israeli hostages,” he said.
‘No different from UN’
Netanyahu, in his reportedly leaked remarks, told the families of the captives that he had intentionally not thanked Qatar for its mediation efforts, claiming it could put more pressure on Hamas.
“You don’t hear me thanking Qatar … who are essentially no different from the United Nations or Red Cross, and even more problematic. I have no illusions with regards to them,” Netanyahu purportedly said in the recording obtained by Channel 12.
“They have the means to put pressure [on Hamas]. And why? Because they finance them,” Netanyahu said.
Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker, reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, said any leak from Netanyahu’s office “isn’t usually by chance” and “is usually done for a political reason – what that is you can only question”.
Netanyahu is under a lot of pressure from “all sides”, domestically and internationally, and “from people on the streets … to do more to bring back the captives”, Dekker said on Thursday.
Hassan Barari, a professor at Qatar University, told Al Jazeera that the Israeli prime minister’s alleged criticism of Qatar’s mediation efforts reflects frustration over his failures in the war.
“Qatar has stepped in many times, and Qatar has succeeded in mediating between Israelis and Hamas,” Barari said, calling the comments a sign of “desperation”.
“Netanyahu wants everyone to do things his own way. He fails on the battleground, he fails to convince his own people that he’s doing the right thing, and he wants to blame others and pass the buck for his failures on the Qataris,” he added.
Qatar, which has hosted the political leadership of Hamas, has in recent years sent millions of dollars in aid to the Hamas-run Gaza Strip in cooperation with the Israeli government “to try and keep the situation there from exploding … because of the restrictions and blockade”, Dekker reported.
Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip in 2007, limiting and controlling the flow of people and goods into and out of the coastal territory.
Responding to al-Ansari’s comments, Israel’s ultranationalist, far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich accused Qatar of supporting “terrorism”.
“Qatar is a country that supports terrorism and finances terrorism. She [Qatar] is the patron of Hamas and is largely responsible for the massacre committed by Hamas of Israeli citizens,” Smotrich wrote on X.
Members of Netanyahu’s far-right ruling coalition have been pushing for an escalation of the war on Gaza, and the prime minister this week rejected a proposal by Hamas to end the conflict and release captives in exchange for withdrawing Israeli forces, releasing prisoners and accepting the armed group’s governance of Gaza.
Palestinian officials say at least 25,700 people have been killed and more than 63,000 wounded in Israeli attacks on Gaza since October 7, when an attack by Hamas inside Israel killed some 1,140 people.