Qatar Mediating Long-Term Truce Between Israel and Hamas

Gaza devastation
A Palestinian family carries their belongings towards the remains of their destroyed home after returning to Beit Hanoun town, which witnesses said was heavily hit by Israeli shelling and air strikes during the Israeli offensive, in the northern Gaza Strip August 5, 2014. Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters

Qatar is mediating a long-term truce between Israel and the Palestinian faction Hamas following last summer's 50-day conflict, according to local media reports.

Qatar's top diplomat in the region and representative in the Gaza Strip, Muhammad al-Ahmadi, has been engaging in shuttle diplomacy, meeting with senior Israeli and Hamas officials in the hope of brokering a ceasefire deal, sources from both Gaza and the West Bank city of Ramallah told the Times of Israel.

Al-Ahmadi visited Gaza earlier this month to announce that the reconstruction of 1,000 homes had begun after Qatar pledged $1 billion in aid to rebuild the territory after the conflict. He is also overseeing the building of new roads, new homes and repairs in light of the large-scale damage inflicted by the Israel Defence Forces' (IDF) Operation Protective Edge last summer.

It is believed that he met with Yoav Mordechai, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, and Palestinian Authority officials, including president Rami Hamdallah. In addition to talks over the reconstruction of the enclave, sources told the Israeli outlet that he offered to broker a peace deal between the two parties.

Daniel Nisman, president of the Tel Aviv-based geopolitical risk consultancy the Levantine Group, says that Qatari involvement in such a deal does not come as a surprise despite the funding that the country is alleged to have provided Hamas, a group designated as a terrorist organisation by the United States and the European Union.

"If anything, they would be a broker that would be able to influence Hamas. Because they have an influence over Hamas, it's not surprising," says Nisman.

Despite Qatar's funding of Hamas, amid Israeli accusations that the money is used for the construction of smuggling tunnels, Nisman adds that Israel seeks a truce in the hope of avoiding another conflict with the Palestinian militants.

"I think that [a long-term truce] is something that Israel desires, I don't think they want another conflict," he notes. "I don't think it's necessarily in their control but I think they desire a period of long-term calm after the last conflict."

Earlier this month, senior Hamas official Dr Mousa Abu-Marzouk rejected a proposal issued by Western diplomats, particularly UN Middle East peace envoy Robert Serry, for a five-year ceasefire in return for the lifting of the Israeli blockade on the territory. The deal was rejected on the grounds that it would further separate the enclave from the Palestinians of the West Bank, he said.

"We're paying a steep price for our stance by the continued blockade and economic pressure over the Strip, but we reject any idea that would lead to the separation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, despite the fact that Palestinian president Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) and his government are actively doing so with their policies," wrote Marzouk on his Facebook page.

In last summer's 50-day conflict, over 2,100 Palestinians—at least 1,585 civilians of which 530 were children—were killed, according to UN and Palestinian accounts, and 72 Israelis—all but five soldiers—were killed, according to Israeli authorities.