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What would you say if I told you Israel is allowing a close ally of Iran, her archenemy, to fund the Hamas terrorist regime in Gaza?

In 2018, the tension on the Israel-Gaza border flared up. Hamas began flying fire kites and incendiary balloons towards Israel. This damaged Israeli farming lands and forced Israeli kindergarteners to evacuate for fear of a major fire, forcing Israel to respond.

The Qatari Gaza Reconstruction Committee began its work in 2012 with a $407 million grant and is considered one of the largest donor organizations in the Gaza Strip. As part of a long-term ‘arrangement’ between Israel and Hamas, Qatar offered to transfer monthly stipends of $15 million to Hamas officials in the civil sector. Additionally, $10 million was granted for diesel for the Gaza power plant.

Israel hoped improving the lives of Palestinians would give them one less reason to join the cycle of terrorism. Israel believed that allowing Qatar to elevate the humanitarian crisis would lead to a quiet border with Gaza. Because Hamas is a recognized terrorist organization and the Palestinian Authority has extremely limited power in the Gaza Strip, Qatar would be the benefactor for the reconstruction of Gaza.

Israelis have become accustomed to seeing the Qatari envoy enter Gaza with suitcases of dollar bills, paying Hamas officials, and have even become somewhat dependent on Qatari money in exchange for the quiet. Having Qatar fill such an important role in Israeli foreign policy poses a national security threat. Qatar benefits from a close economic relationship with Iran, avoids criticizing Iranian domestic and foreign policy and is considered a close ally.

It is worth noting that Iran supplies the terrorist organizations in Gaza with military technology and missiles. In a flip of a dime, Iran can cause the Gaza border to heat up. If Iran applies pressure on Qatar to stop the payments, Hamas will use the Iranian-made and Iranian-inspired missiles to attack Israel. This is in addition to the threats coming from the Iranian proxy, Hezbollah, on Israel’s northern border, in Lebanon and stationed in Syria.

While Israel continues its campaign against a nuclear Iran, the Islamic Republic through Qatari assistance, holds the keys to the quiet on all the Israeli borders except those with Jordan and Egypt. Although the threat of Hezbollah is not in Israel’s control, the dependency on Qatar is very much Israel’s choice.

Israeli security officials have been warning the world about the Iranian crescent in the Middle East – the Iranian attempt to “hug” the region with influence and proxies. That Israel is allowing an Iranian ally to subsidize the salaries of a terrorist organization is counterproductive and sends mixed signals to Israel’s allies.

Israel must consider the tradeoff between decreasing Iranian influence in the Middle East and fragile serenity on the Gaza border. Allowing Qatari money to flow into Gaza may be a solution for quiet on the Gaza front, but in the long run, it will harm Israel’s national security. In a way, the Qatari money is a form of bribery and it is only good as long as the Qataris keep paying and there is mutual interest. These payments end up feeding the interests of Iran, which is committed to destroying the Jewish state.

However, it is not too late to end this financial arrangement, even at the cost of a short-term escalation with Hamas. It will pay off in the long run by minimizing Iran’s influence in the region and preventing Iran from holding the keys to Israel’s stability on her southern border. Israel must reassess the Qatari role in the region.

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About the Author

Benjamin Weil
Benjamin Weil is Director of the Project for Israel’s National Security at the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET). He formerly served as the international adviser to Minister Yuval Steinitz, a member of Israel’s Security Cabinet.

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