Bid to stop Qatar World Cup

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY ANSHEL PF­EF­FER

THE IS­RAELI gov­ern­ment is em­bark­ing on a low-pro­file campaign against Qatar, which has emerged as the main backer of Ha­mas.

The campaign is nei­ther full-scale or of­fi­cial due to the close ties between Wash­ing­ton and Qatar. One of the key el­e­ments of the diplo­matic drive will be to raise ques­tions over Qatar’s suit­abil­ity to host the 2022 World Cup.

Es­tranged from Iran in the wake of the Syr­ian Civil War and from the new Al-Sisi gov­ern­ment in Egypt, Ha­mas has in­creas­ingly fallen back on the Qataris. Ac­cord­ing to Is­raeli in­tel­li­gence, some of the mil­lions of dol­lars that the emi­rate has poured into Ha­mas cof­fers over the years has been used to fi­nance Ha­mas’s mil­i­tary in­fra­struc­ture.

Ha­mas po­lit­i­cal bureau chief Khaled Mashaal cur­rently re­sides in Doha and the Qatari news chan­nel, Al Jazeera, is sup­port­ive of the move­ment.

Last week, as the Is­raeli and Pales­tinian del­e­ga­tions tried and failed to reach a cease­fire deal in Cairo, Pales­tinian sources ac­cused Qatar of di­rect­ing Mr Mashaal not to agree to a deal which did not in­clude any role for the emi­rate.

Qatar is in­creas­ingly be­ing seen in the re­gion as the bas­tion of “po­lit­i­cal Is­lam” with its sup­port for Ha­mas, the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood and Is­lamist groups such as Jab­hat al-Nusra in Syria.

While Qatar has been men­tioned as Ha­mas’s chief sup­porter in speeches by se­nior Is­raeli of­fi­cials and politi­cians, the gov­ern­ment has re­frained so far from call­ing for diplo­matic sanc­tions, largely due to the close ties between Wash­ing­ton and Doha.

An­other dif­fi­culty for Is­rael is that if the emi­rate were to be stripped of the 2022 World Cup, pres­sure would grow for Fifa to move against Rus­sia, which is due to host the event in 2018 and has strong strate­gic ties to the Jewish state.

Is­raeli en­voy to the UN Ron Prosor re­cently de­scribed Qatar as a “Club Med for ter­ror­ists”, adding that “one has to ques­tion Fifa’s de­ci­sion to re­ward Qatar with the 2022 World Cup”.

Is­raeli of­fi­cials also said this week that they would like to draw more at­ten­tion to the abuse of labour­ers work­ing on World Cup in­fra­struc­ture in Qatar.

PHOTO: AP

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