Another Tack: While we keep kvetching

Qatar’s Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani (right) in Gaza with Hamas strongman Ismail HaniyehThe wardrobe adaptability of the Emir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani is very telling. The same goes for his cousin, Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani.

When it serves their purposes, Qatar’s staggeringly wealthy two most powerful players strut about in very traditional Arab garb. But when the occasion deems it expedient, they soothe subliminal western anxieties by donning tailored suits of the exceptionally elegant sort that proliferates in European Union forums. That purportedly imparts an impression of trustworthiness.

The cousins’ policy line is just as chameleon-like. There’s a yawning gap between their utterances in English and in Arabic.

Not too many years ago, Qatar was an Israeli success story, or so it was widely believed in Jerusalem. Relations with Doha, especially trade ties, flourished since the mid-Nineties. They weren’t formal or full, yet they were hardly covert. Everyone knew about them. Unnamed Qatari higher-ups had reportedly visited Israel and Shimon Peres, then deputy premier, openly visited Qatar in 2007. Tzipi Livni did the same a year later. Other Israelis, such as Ehud Barak, hobnobbed with the emir.

But Qatar unilaterally abrogated these ties after Operation Cast Lead. Doha offered to restore them if Israel allowed unrestricted shipments of building materials to Gaza. Since these can be used to build bunkers, Israel refused. Continue reading