Tel Aviv, Asharq Al-Awsat– Qatar ’s Foreign Minister arrived in Beirut to attend a meeting of Arab foreign ministers, after stopping in Israel , Israeli sources told Asharq al Awsat yesterday.
Sheikh Jassem al Thani traveled to Tel Aviv last Monday where he spent four hours and met a number of officials, the sources said. He met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni and Defense Minister Amir Peretz to discuss the Arab League meeting and the ongoing war in Lebanon, in addition to bilateral relations.
Israeli officials allegedly asked the Qatari Minister to clarify earlier statements in which he said Doha was ready to break off relations with Israel, if an Arab consensus on the issue emerges.
Sheikh al Thani said his statement was aimed at silencing Arab public opinion which has criticized Qatar’s relations with Israel but do not dare level the same criticism at Jordan, Egypt or the Palestinian Authority.
Israeli officials also expressed their displeasure with a number of reports broadcast on Al Jazeera deeming them provocative. Qatar’s Foreign Minister said that the satellite channel was a free platform and the only Arab television station which broadcasts the reactions of Israeli military and diplomatic spokespeople. He expressed his surprise that a democratic country, such as Israel, would criticize freedom of expression in Qatar.
The sources indicated that the Qatari Minister left for Beirut directly from Tel Aviv accompanied by two Israeli planes.
A passenger on the three planes that flew Arab foreign ministers to Beirut last week told Asharq al Awsat that Israeli had warned that it could not guarantee the safety of the airplanes if they flew from Damascus and suggested Arab minister used Israeli airspace instead.