Netanyahu Implored Qataris to Continue Funding Hamas in 2018 Letter

by | May 8, 2024

Netanyahu Implored Qataris to Continue Funding Hamas in 2018 Letter

by | May 8, 2024

netanyahu's face on a bloody israeli flag during protest

As Israel’s war on Palestinians living in the besieged Gaza Strip continues escalating, a secret 2018 letter penned by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the leadership in Doha exposes Tel Aviv’s diplomatic efforts to ensure tens of millions of dollars would reach Hamas every month. The decades-long policy of Netanyahu’s far-right Likud Party to directly and indirectly fund Hamas has been well documented by the US and Israeli press.

In the letter, only seen by a handful of people, Netanyahu implored the Qatari government to send Hamas another major cash infusion. According to Ynet, an Israeli news outlet, Qatari funding for Hamas between 2007 and 2014 was conducted largely without international oversight. But following Israel’s 2014 war on Gaza, the transfers were carried out with a new system worked out by the US, Israel, the UN, and Qatar, ensuring Hamas was provided with $30 million per month ostensibly to cover fuel costs, welfare payments for the needy, as well as government salaries.

Until 2018, the payments were cleared with Israel and the illegally occupied West Bank’s Palestinian Authority (PA). The PA is trained and backed by Tel Aviv, London, and Washington. Essentially trustees in an Israeli prison, the PA is not a sovereign state by any means.

Nevertheless, Dr. Udi Levi, the Mossad official charged with cracking down on the funding of terrorism until 2016, told Ynet “The PA said it would no longer agree to fund Hamas and rather than let the terror group collapse, Israel decided on an alternative route for its funding.”

He continued, “That was part of Israel’s policy to buy quiet. Hamas demanded that the $30 million per month would be delivered directly to the ruling faction. It was naïve to believe Hamas would provide the money to the population in Gaza.”

Levi goes on to explain that Doha was reluctant to fund Hamas as well, saying, “In 2018 Qatar was concerned that funding Hamas – which had been designated a terror organization – would create problems with international institutions.”

There were concerns within the Qatari government that continuing to send money to the group would imperil Doha with respect to international institutions. Presumably, this included the risk of running afoul of the US Treasury Department’s myriad sanctions and penalties. “There was a sense that the Americans were needed, in order to seal the deal,” Levi concedes.

Subsequently, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin “agreed to a request from Netanyahu and sent an additional letter to Doha, this time from Washington, in effect, ensuring Qatar that the funding of Hamas would not be considered funding terror.”

At the time, photographs of the transferred funds caused a political uproar in Israel, with Haaretz reporting,

The criticism suffered by [Netanyahu] over the weekend was earned fair and square. The photos of $15 million in cash from Qatar entering the Gaza Strip in suitcases cast a ridiculous light on his repeated claims of being tough on Hamas. …

In reality, Netanyahu is conducting indirect negotiations with Hamas (though he and his government religiously refuse to confirm this). The Qatari cash, which will help preserve Hamas’ hold on Gaza, could not have entered without his approval.

From 2012 to 2018, Doha provided more than $1 billion to Hamas, hundreds of millions per year, with Tel Aviv’s green light. Among other things, this money was used to fund education, healthcare, and aid – including through the UN, pay government salaries and purchase fuel.

The long-standing policy of backing Hamas was part of a larger effort by Netanyahu and Likud to divide the Palestinians, weaken Fatah, preclude negotiations over a Palestinian state, and continue the de facto annexation of land in the West Bank with expanding illegal settlements.

Likud spokesman Jonatan Urich, one of Netanyahu’s media advisers, has bragged that a key success of Netanyahu was disconnecting Gaza from the West Bank, both politically and conceptually. “[Netanyahu] basically smashed the vision of the Palestinian state in these two places… some of the achievement is related to the Qatari money reaching Hamas each month.”

Netanyahu had previously dispatched high officials, such as Mossad chief Yosi Cohen, to Doha “[begging] the Qataris to keep funneling money into Hamas” as Avigdor Lieberman, the former defense minister characterized it.

Distel Atbaryan, former minister of information and current Likudnik member of the Knesset, has also laid bare the intent behind the cynical policy, warning “[I]f Hamas crumbles, [Mahmoud Abbas] may rule [Gaza]. If he rules it, voices on the left will encourage … a Palestinian state in [the West Bank] as well… [T]his is the real reason Netanyahu doesn’t annihilate Hamas, everything else is bullshit.”

Earlier this year, Josep Borrell, the European Union foreign policy chief, condemned Likud’s efforts to support Hamas in order to prevent negotiations for a Palestinian state, arguing “It is an unquestionable reality that Israel has bet on dividing the Palestinians, creating a force to oppose Fatah.”

Borrell has previously remarked, “We believe that a two-state solution must be imposed from outside to bring peace. Although I insist, Israel is reaffirming its refusal (of this solution), and to prevent it they have gone so far as to create Hamas themselves… Hamas has been financed by the Israeli government to try to weaken the Palestinian Authority of Fatah.”

Less than five years before the October 7 Hamas attack, Netanyahu gloated to a meeting of his Likud party’s Knesset members that “anyone who wants to thwart the establishment of a Palestinian state has to support bolstering Hamas and transferring money to Hamas.”

Netanyahu elaborated, insisting “This is part of our strategy – to isolate the Palestinians in Gaza from the Palestinians in the West Bank… It’s impossible to reach an agreement with them … Everyone knows this, but we control the height of the flames.”

About Connor Freeman

Connor Freeman is the assistant editor and a writer at the Libertarian Institute, primarily covering foreign policy. He is a co-host on Conflicts of Interest. His writing has been featured in media outlets such as Antiwar.com and Counterpunch, as well as the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity. He has also appeared on Liberty Weekly, Around the Empire, and Parallax Views. You can follow him on Twitter @FreemansMind96

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