The current Qatar-Gulf crisis has offered Israel a golden opportunity to normalise its presence in the region, undermine the Palestinian cause and deliver a diplomatic blow to the Islamic Resistance movement, Hamas, analysts say.
Under the pretext of fighting “terrorism”, the anti-Hamas, anti-political Islam coalition seems to be emerging with the Saudi-led bloc and Israel at its heart, they added.
Researcher and expert on Israeli affairs, Antoine Shalhat, believes that Israel’s rapid adoption of the Saudi position confirms that the two countries share Israel’s vision on regional developments and the Palestinian cause.
Shalhat told Al Jazeera that Israel is hoping to make political gains from the Gulf crisis and the blockade on Qatar by weakening Hamas and undermining its influence in the Gaza Strip, and demonising it in the Arab world under the pretext of “terrorism”.
He added that the Saudi attack on Hamas and its portrayal of the movement as a “terrorist organisation” serves the Israeli agenda and is consistent with Israel’s goal to eliminate the Palestinian cause.
Along with severing diplomatic ties, the Riyadh-led blockade was imposed against Doha. Saudi, which shares the only land border with Qatar, shut the crossing and stopped goods being transported to its gas-rich neighbour. Saudi, UAE and Bahrain also closed their airspace to flights to and from Qatar, forcing airlines to remove Doha from their list of destinations.
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir also said Qatar needed to end its support for Hamas before ties with other Arab Gulf states could be restored. Hamas responded to the statements saying they “constitute a shock for our Palestinian people and the Arab and Islamic nations”, and that the remarks gave Israel an excuse “to carry out more violations against the Palestinian people”.
Analysts say Israel, which has only signed peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, stands to benefit most from the Qatar-Gulf crisis.
Writing in the Israeli daily Haaretz, commentator Amos Harel said that the Gulf crisis “will serve to undermine Hamas and redraw regional policies in accordance with the Israeli visions as Israel seeks to normalise its relations with the Arab states while isolating the Palestinian question”.
Following the crisis, Israeli officials’ repeated statements centred on fighting “terrorism” and hopes for “cooperation” with the Gulf states on security concerns.
“The Arab states who broke off diplomatic relations with Qatar didn’t do so because of Israel, nor … because of the Palestinian issue. They did it because of their own concerns about radical Islamic terror,” Avigdor Lieberman, Israeli defence minister, said at the Israeli parliament on June 6.
“There can be no doubt that this opens many opportunities for cooperation in the war against terror. The state of Israel is more than open to such cooperation. The ball is now in their court,” he added.
Eran Zinger, Arab and Middle East correspondent for Radio Israel, believes that Israel is in need of Qatar’s mediation to deal with some of the pricklier issues in the Hamas-administered Gaza Strip, such as funds for reconstruction.
The Gaza Strip, a small enclave that is home to about two million residents, has been under an Israeli blockade for more than a decade. It has witnessed three Israeli assaults that have resulted in the destruction of essential infrastructure and the impoverishment of its residents. In the face of the Israeli siege and its occupation of Gaza, Qatar has been one of the biggest financial contributors to the strip’s reconstruction.
Zinger told Al Jazeera that in spite of official Israeli statements that support Saudi Arabia and oppose Qatar and Hamas, Tel Aviv fears that there could be widespread instability in the region if the situation between Riyadh and Doha deteriorates further.
One such fear for Tel Aviv is that the Gaza crisis could escalate, causing major splits and disputes within the Hamas movement, which could lead to an armed confrontation between the movement and Israel.
Harel echoed this analysis in Haaretz, writing: “If the Saudi and Egyptian pressure leads Qatar to stop supporting Hamas, this could worsen the economic distress in Gaza as well as the military tension with Israel.”
Zinger added that according to statements made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Lieberman, the purpose behind isolating Qatar was to pressure it to withdraw its support for Hamas, and to pressure it to fall back in line with Saudi policies, or what Israel describes as the “moderate” Arab camp.
Playing on regional rifts in the Arab world, with the divide between the Gulf states and Iran, Israeli officials and analysts often speak of an unofficial “moderate axis” of Arab countries that are purportedly working behind the scenes with the Israeli government.
In this “alliance”, Western-backed countries including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and several of the Gulf states, as well as Jordan and Morocco, are said to be pitted against “common enemies” such as Syria, Iran, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.
According to Shalhat, the danger in besieging Qatar lies in the potential adoption of a new tone governing diplomacy between Arab countries, which could have negative repercussions on the Palestinian cause.