The Takeaway: Israel and Hamas turn to Qatar for truce

Five takes on the Israel-Hamas deal and latest from Gaza; Arafat’s wife backs UAE-Israel peace deal; Curly hair makes a comeback in Egypt.

al-monitor A picture taken on May 5, 2019 from the Israel-Gaza border shows a barrage of rockets being fired from the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave.  Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images.

Topics covered

israel-uae agreement, hamas, gaza strip

Sep 9, 2020

1.  UN:  “Gaza is on the verge of becoming unlivable

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nikolay Mladenov welcomed the truce between Israel and Hamas on Aug. 31, which was brokered by Qatar and also involved UN and Egyptian mediation.

Israel and Hamas agreed to the deal following weeks of violence that began with Hamas sending incendiary balloons into Israeli towns close to Gaza’s border, starting more than 200 fires. Israel responded with more than 100 air and tank attacks and by closing the Gaza border. Despite the material damage and costs to an already beleaguered population, there were no casualties, as it seemed neither side wanted to escalate.

The reduction in tensions has allowed UN and relief agencies to return to focusing on Gaza’s humanitarian crisis, including “a collapsing health care system, high unemployment, and inadequate and unreliable power supplies.”

“Gaza has been reduced to a humanitarian whisper,” said Michael Lynk, UN Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory. 


2.  Qatar:  Doha stakes claim as go-to mediator

Although the truce between the UAE and Israel has been a breakthrough in Arab-Israeli diplomacy, Qatar remains a go-to broker of negotiations with Hamas for Israel.

Mohammed al-Emadi, chairman of the Qatar Committee for the Reconstruction of Gaza, played the key role in getting both sides to deescalate.

In a statement provided exclusively to Al-Monitor, Emadi explained the context and outcome of the negotiations. In return for Hamas refraining from the launching of rockets and incendiary balloons from Gaza, Israel agreed to:

-    Open borders to allow more consumer goods into Gaza;

-    Resume talks between Israeli and Palestinian businessmen to facilitate the trade and flow of workers into Israel;

-    Allow construction of an American-financed hospital.

Qatar provided $34 million in assistance to Gaza this past month, in addition to working with UN agencies to provide electricity.

With this latest diplomatic success, Qatar seems to be staking its claim as an indispensable partner in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, despite the UAE-Israel peace agreement, and Egypt’s long-standing role as intermediary (see below).

Palestinian leaders have criticized the UAE deal with Israel as a betrayal, although the UAE conditioned the agreement on Israel holding off on expanding settlements into the West Bank.

In 2017, the UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt imposed an embargo on trade and travel to Qatar.


3. Israel:  Gantz presses hard line for return of missing Israelis

While he has allowed some Gaza development projects to proceed, Israel Defense Minister Benny Gantz is also taking a hard line against Hamas on the return of Israeli citizens and bodies of IDF soldiers.

There is a consensus among Israel’s security leaders of the need to provide economic and humanitarian relief to Gaza, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Gantz, his political rival, agree on the need to keep the pressure on Hamas.

Gantz signed orders to seize millions of dollars’ worth of Hamas funds and property in Gaza, the West Bank and worldwide. He is also not returning bodies of Hamas members killed by Israel until Hamas accounts for and returns the remains of all missing Israelis.

Read Danny Zaken’s report from Israel here


4.  Gaza:  Hamas balloon offensive disappoints citizens

Adnan Abu Amer reports from Gaza that many Palestinians were dismayed at the futility and lack of effect of Hamas’ “balloon offensive,” given the “overambitious” statements by Hamas leaders who had predicted it would lead to a lifting of Israel’s blockade. The outcome fell short of Hamas’ rhetoric.

Abu Amer writes:  “Unlike previous escalation rounds, Hamas did not launch rockets on Israel, and no Palestinians were killed in Gaza in the Israeli shelling, a sign that neither party wanted an open confrontation. Things may have gone differently if not for the novel coronavirus. It would have been difficult for Hamas to battle both the pandemic and Israel at once.”

Abu Amer also points out the interests of both Egypt and Qatar, who are regional rivals, in seeking influence with Hamas … with this round going to Qatar: 

“Hamas sees Egypt as a country with deep interests in the Gaza Strip as it borders the enclave. Meanwhile, Hamas benefits from Qatar’s funding and foreign connections. Hamas has proven able to communicate with both even though the two countries have deep-seated enmity over regional disputes including Cairo’s accusations that Doha is harboring Muslim Brotherhood leaders and members wanted by Egyptian authorities.”

Read Adnan’s report from Gaza here.


5. Gaza:  Islamic Jihad not pleased with truce

Unlike Hamas, which controls the government in Gaza, Islamic Jihad does not have the burden of governance. The group, therefore, can take more extreme positions than Hamas, which Hamas can also use as leverage in its dealings with Israel. Both factions have good ties with Iran and mostly coordinate their actions.

Islamic Jihad has not made an official statement about the Israel-Hamas truce, was not privy to the negotiations and is not pleased with the agreement, Al-Monitor has learned.

“Islamic Jihad leader Ahmed al-Mudallal refused to answer Al-Monitor's question about whether his movement was a partner to the agreement. He said, “What matters is what this agreement will lead to. … The struggle against the Israeli siege on Gaza — using various methods — will only stop once the Israeli siege on Gaza is completely lifted.”

Read the report from Gaza by Tamam Mohsen here.


In case you missed it:  Widow of Yasser Arafat backs UAE deal

Suha Arafat, widow of PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, backed the Israel-UAE peace deal and called out Palestinian Authority leaders for criticizing the Emirates.

She asked Palestinian “generations to read history well to learn how the UAE has always and continues to support the Palestinian people and cause.” 

Read the article by Ahmed Melhem here.


Cool thing:  Egyptian women go natural for curly, kinky hair

Natural curly or kinky hair has been considered as a fashion and style negative, forcing women to straighten their hair to avoid harassment or criticism. Not anymore. Read the article here by Youssra el-Sharkaway.

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