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Gaza and Qatari guardianship - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The visit of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar, to the Gaza Strip has raised some criticism, specifically from the Palestinian Authority. However this visit also raises a lot of questions, most importantly: Does the visit of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa mean that Gaza is now under Qatari guardianship, after it was previously under the guardianship of Iran and Bashar al-Assad?

The Emir of Qatar’s visit to Gaza will not be a fleeting matter. This is something that much regarding the Palestinian Cause as a whole will depend on, not to mention the dream of a Palestinian state, inter-Palestinian reconciliation, and likewise the consequences of war and peace, particularly with the Iranian pressures on some parties in Gaza, whether parties within Hamas itself or other armed movements. It is natural for there to be criticism towards the Qatari visit of Gaza coming from the Palestinian Authority, but the questions about the consequences of this visit are more important. After the departure of the Mubarak regime and the arrival of the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Egypt, it was believed, or supposed, that Gaza would come under Egyptian, not Qatari, custodianship, and the consequences of this matter will soon become clear. Furthermore, undertaking the guardianship of Gaza entails a severe collision with the Iranians, just as it is also likely to be problematic with the international community, especially with Hamas’ stance towards the peace process.

Placing Gaza under Qatari guardianship means that Doha is now a party in the inter-Palestinian conflict, which poses a genuine danger to Palestinian reconciliation, the state and the peace process. Is Qatar able to pay this high political price? More difficult than that, will Qatar tomorrow bear the results of rockets being launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel, especially in the case of international action against al-Assad or with regards to the Iranian nuclear file? Hamas still has outstanding issues with several parties, so what would Qatar do, for example, in the event of Israeli aggression against Gaza? What if it was said tomorrow that Qatar was financing Hamas, which is firing rockets into Israel? Would Qatar bear responsibility for the results?

These are all urgent questions, especially as the price of Qatar’s guardianship of Gaza is not yet clear. Has Hamas changed its position completely, especially with regards to inter-Palestinian reconciliation? Has Hamas changed its position towards the peace process in general? Is Qatar’s guardianship of Gaza intended to completely distance Hamas from Iran? There are many serious questions that merit greater discussion, details and information, because Qatar getting close to Hamas in this way will have consequences in the event of war or peace. Is this an attempt merely to strengthen Hamas at the expense of the Palestinian Authority, through Qatar’s consistent line of supporting Muslim Brotherhood movements in every region? Or is the most important reason rewarding Hamas for its stance towards Syria, and in order to distance it from Iran?

The problem of Gaza, and specifically of dealing with Hamas, is like walking on an oceaan of sand. The simplest example of that is the Mubarak regime, which spent the last five years of its reign searching for the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who had been kidnapped at the time by Hamas! Thus, Gaza coming under Qatari custodianship poses many questions that we unfortunately do not have answers for, but what is certain is that the price will be large for everyone.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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