America’s patience with Qatar should be just about running on empty.
The release of Israeli hostages that was supposed to begin on Thursday will now begin Friday evening, a delay due to either the sunstroked emirate’s incompetence or its malevolence. More likely, it’s a combination of the two. Performative uselessness is still uselessness.
“Senior Egyptian officials said Hamas failed to formally sign off on the mechanism for the hostages’ release, and didn’t provide Israel with a specific list of around a dozen or more to be freed first. The two sides already reviewed the full list of 50 people set for release, including their names, ages and genders,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
Additionally, “Israel had wanted the hostages to be handed over to the Red Cross before their transfer to Israel, while Hamas is now asking for them to be given directly to Egypt, the officials said.”
The Journal story is helpfully clear about the past day’s events. The text of the piece also does not contain the word “Qatar.” And why would it? The story includes only the regional actors who know what’s going on.
Why be so harsh on Qatar? Well, first of all, what Israelis are going through right now, especially those missing immediate family members who are either held in dank Hamas underground prisons or have already died at the terrorists’ hands, is psychological torture. John wrote yesterday about how the IDF soldiers tasked with accompanying freed child hostages “have been instructed not to answer the question, ‘Where are mommy and daddy,’ only to reassure them that they are now safe. Those soldiers are also being told to ask if the children are hot or cold and whether they want or need to be carried, or want their hands held.”
The writer Antonio Garcia Martinez couldn’t get past the phrase “child war hostage” while reading about the IDF guidance: “Just think about that for a moment. In 2023.”
Indeed, it shocks the conscience. And once the agreement was reached and announced, every delay was a tablespoon of salt in these suffering families’ wounds.
Qatar is involved in the negotiations because it is Hamas’s bank and crisis PR firm on retainer. It hosts Hamas leaders and gives the terrorists hundreds of millions of dollars a year. It is the “largest foreign donor to American universities,” which you may have noticed are pushing a distinctly rancid mix of Soviet and Hamas propaganda and passing it off as an academic discipline of “decolonization” studies, all while these campuses erupt with sometimes-violent rallies in support of Hamas. Qatar is also the disseminator of a hugely popular television station devoted entirely to the wishes of dictators and thugs.
Meanwhile, Qatar hosts a large U.S. air base (and the protection that offers). Its “major non-NATO ally” designation will only increase its military ties with the U.S. It is also a nontrivial trading partner.
Yet when we need the deals to get around a pothole, the Egyptians are still the next-door neighbors who will be personally participating in any relocation and thus have skin in the game. And when the Red Cross wanted to get word about hostages, it went to Iran. The Thai government did the same.
Qatar will be allowed to continue its double game so long as the White House believes its usefulness offsets the damage it does to Western interests. Whether that is still the case gets murkier by the day, and the Biden administration should tell the Qataris as much.