NOW that a reconciliation has been reached between Qatar and the blockading Gulf countries of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, it is clear Doha has emerged stronger from the experience.
Without seeking to aggravate wounds which are just beginning to heal it is worth mentioning that Qatar’s standing in the international community has grown because of the way it handled the immense pressure inflicted on it during the three long blockade years.
The anger, threats and hostilities thrown at the tiny state were both outrageous and dangerous but, on the whole, Qatar navigated these choppy waters in a dignified manner unwilling to destroy the bridges it had previously built between Doha and the rest of the GCC countries.
As a result the new Biden Administration in Washington would do well to seek counsel from Qatar when it comes to reshaping America’s Middle East policy after the disastrous Trump years.
Qatar should, I hope, be willing to step up to the plate as a mediator because while the Gulf spat is all but over there are still too many key issues in the Middle East which call for a calm and measured response.
Palestine, as always, is at the heart of the issue and with the May elections looming, Qatar is perfectly placed to act as an honest broker. The Palestinians in Gaza have been unfairly punished and shunned by the international community for democratically choosing Hamas to represent them.
Hamas may not be the favoured choice in Washington, London or elsewhere but that matters not – what ‘we’ in the West think has no bearing on the voter in Gaza and we should respect the choice of the Palestinians for that is what democracy is all about.
It’s a lesson in which the new US President Joe Biden needs no advice. He of all politicians knows that democracy is all about what the people want and not what the powerful want them to do.
So if Hamas wins significant seats in the elections, the Biden administration (as well as the international community) should begin engaging with them. This is where Qatar’s recent experience in difficult circumstances comes in to play. It is clear there is no better or obvious broker between Washington, Ramallah, Gaza and the rest of the world than Qatar.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair admitted back in 2017 that he and other world leaders were wrong to yield to Israeli pressure to impose an immediate boycott of Hamas after the Islamic faction won Palestinian elections in 2006.
However he was, back in 2006, considered a poodle of the Bush Administration and showed as much by agreeing with the US President to cut off relations with the newly elected Hamas-led government unless it agreed to recognise Israel, renounce violence and abide by previous agreements between its Fatah predecessors and Israel.
Hamas does not respond well with a metaphorical gun to the head and its rejection of the demands was entirely predictable. Although the Palestinian elections were judged free and fair by international monitors the result did not please Washington or Tel Aviv and so the Palestinians were punished for exercising their democratic rights and have been ever since.
This time round there are wiser, more sanguine heads in The White House but President Joe Biden needs an honest broker all sides can trust. I would strongly recommend Qatar for the role.
Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani has already offered to mediate a meeting that would bring together the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries with Iran. Al-Thani has told journalists that he is “hopeful that this would happen, and we still believe this should happen.”
Now that the toxicity of Trump is no longer an issue and the blockade is but a memory, Qatar has emerged as a major influence in the region. If it can bring about an entente cordiale between the GCC and Iran then there’s no reason why it can’t offer similar mediation skills between the West and Hamas.
Three years ago this would have been inconceivable as the rest of the world looked on wondering how and if Qatar could survive such a blockade, but it did and without submitting to any of the demands made.
If anyone can broker a genuine peace deal for the Palestinians then Qatar can because it has the patience, integrity, wisdom and the experience of working between a rock and a hard place!