A senior State Department official told reporters that Washington sees Qatar as another Gulf country potentially prepared to normalize relations with Israel after the UAE and Bahrain.
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH – The Jerusalem Post
Last week, the US and Qatar issued a joint statement after holding their third Strategic Dialogue on September 14-15. The two sides highlighted the strength of the bilateral relationship, opportunities to further deepen cooperation to benefit both countries.
A senior State Department official told reporters that Washington sees Qatar as another Gulf country potentially prepared to normalize relations with Israel after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
“Qatar has a track record of working with Israel that we think will eventually get them to a broader agreement with the Israelis,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Tim Lenderking was quoted by Bloomberg as saying. “We think there’s a lot to build on, every country will move at its own pace on normalization, according to its own criteria, but we’re eager for that to happen sooner rather than later.”
Qatari Assistant Foreign Minister Lolwah Alkhater said this week her country won’t establish diplomatic relations with Israel until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved.
Palestinian officials said that the joint US-Qatar statement, which talks about resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of the Trump peace vision, is a Qatari endorsement of the plan, which has been rejected by the Palestinians.
The Palestinians have denounced the Trump peace vision, unveiled last January, as a “conspiracy designed to liquidate the Palestinian issue and national rights.”
Relations between the Palestinian Authority and Qatar have been strained in recent years due to Doha’s ongoing financial and political support for Hamas.
Monir al Jaghoub, a senior official with the Palestinian ruling Fatah faction, said that Qatar appears to be afraid that it will miss the train of normalization with Israel.
“Our people and leadership have categorically rejected Trump’s plan,” al-Jaghoub commented on Twitter. “The Palestinian leadership cannot enter into negotiations based on this plan, which poses a threat to all the peoples of the region, because it ignores the essence of the conflict, which is the Palestinian people’s right to freedom within an independent and fully sovereign state with east Jerusalem as its capital. This is not a step towards peace.”
PLO Executive Committee member Ahmed Majdalani, who heads a group called the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front, also accused Qatar of endorsing the Trump plan, “which is rejected by the Palestinians and the international community.”
Majdalani said that “there will be no security or stability in the region without ending the occupation and establishing the Palestinian state.”
He added that the continued American pressure on some Arab countries to follow suit with the UAE and Bahrain is increasing before the upcoming US presidential elections.
Bassam al-Salhi, Secretary-General of the Palestinian People’s Party and member of the PLO Executive Committee, said that Qatar has become the first Arab country to officially endorse the Trump peace vision.
Referring to the joint US-Qatar statement, al-Salhi said: “This is a very dangerous development that confirms the importance of expediting the implementation of all that was agreed upon in the last meeting of the Palestinian factions, and most importantly, mobilizing the energies of our people to confront the dangers and renew our national project and the institutions of our people.”
Walid al-Awad, another senior official with the Palestinian People’s Party, said that Qatar’s “endorsement of the Trump deal represents a declaration that it has decided to join the path of normalization [with Israel].”