The Qatari sheikh’s visit to Gaza signals a shift in perspective in the Arab world vis a vis the Palestinian Authority.
On the eve of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, which began last Friday [Oct. 26] and lasted for four days, the Palestinian Authority, led by Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, were dealt an economic and political blow, possibly the worst in the PA’s history. That blow was delivered by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa, the Emir of Qatar, who arrived with his wife Moza for an official visit to Gaza.
During the visit, which lasted only seven hours, Sheikh Hamad announced a $400 million donation to repair the destruction from Operation Cast Lead [the 2008-2009 Israeli military operation]. The donation supplements a large gas donation that Qatar gave the Hamas government a few weeks ago. The PA worked to collect donations that very day, in order to pay its workers their monthly salaries for September. “The visit is a breach of the political and economic siege on Gaza,” Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh declared upon receiving Sheikh Hamad, who was granted an honorary doctorate from the Islamic University of Gaza. Haniyeh was right. A visit to Gaza from a head of state, the opening of the tunnels [between Gaza and Egypt] for the passage of goods, and nearly free movement for people through Rafah [crossing] make a mockery of the remnants of Israel’s siege of Gaza.
The Arab Spring’s sponsor
In his speech at the Islamic University of Gaza, Sheikh Hamad praised the Arab Spring, which, to date, hasn’t harmed his country. As the economies of the non-oil Arab states — like Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority — are deteriorating, the income of the oil states, which are also benefitting from the sanctions on Iranian oil, have grown dramatically.
The wealthy people in this case aren’t just influential, but also control the fates of rulers. Saudi Arabia and the emirates, especially Qatar, are funding the Free Syrian Army, which is comprised of militias, some of which include Islamic fundamentalists. While the Gulf states fund the struggle to topple the Assad regime, they strengthen the hold on power of King Abdullah of Jordan, with the help of subsidies for consumer goods and in stopping the protest against the rising cost of living.
“The regime in Ramallah has no chance of survival”
In the past, the Gulf states, including Qatar, aided the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. Abu Mazen [Abbas] was once a consultant in Qatar, and he holds property and business holdings there. Thanks to his connections, Qatar invested some $1 billion in the construction of the new Palestinian city “Rawabi.”
Since the Arab Spring and the war in Syria, things have changed. Khaled Meshal, the Hamas leader, left Damascus for Doha, the Qatari capital, where he is helping Qatari princes and the state’s Al-Jazeera topple the Syrian regime.
The Arab states, which supported the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority, have openly moved their support over to Hamas. This shift is represented by Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and the Qatari sheikh. “The regime in Ramallah has no hope for survival,” I heard a European ambassador to Israel say a few days ago in a private conversation. He believes that within three or four months, the PA will collapse under the weight of its debt. Israel is certainly taking this into account.