Qatar has said that it was “appalled” by the reported recordings.
The United States has defended Qatar’s mediation role between Hamas and Israel on Thursday following leaked recordings from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticising the Gulf state’s efforts earlier this week.
When asked during a press briefing in Washington on the recordings’ possible impact on Qatar’s current mediation, State Department spokesman Vedant Patel underlined Doha’s role as an “integral” regional partner.
“I don’t have any assessment to offer on those comments or some of the audio that’s been circulating. What I can just say – and I spoke a little bit about this yesterday – is that Qatar has been an integral, irreplaceable, key regional partner, not just as it relates to this current ongoing conflict, but other priorities that the United States has had in the region,” Patel said in a press conference.
Israeli media reported on Tuesday on leaked recordings from a meeting between Netanyahu and the families of captives in Tel Aviv, where he accused Qatar’s mediation between Hamas and Israel of being “problematic”.
“Qatar, from my point of view, is no different in essence than the United Nations…and the Red Cross, [Qatar] is even more problematic,” Netanyahu is heard telling the families in the leaked recording.
He added that he was willing to speak to anyone who would help return the captives.
“I have no illusions about them. They have leverage [over Hamas]… Because [Qatar] funds them,” Netanyahu added, echoing a claim that the Gulf state has repeatedly denied.
Responding to the reports on Wednesday, Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Majed Al Ansari, said on X that he is “appalled” by reported remarks while describing them as “irresponsible and destructive” to current mediation efforts.
“We are appalled by the alleged remarks attributed to the Israeli Prime Minister in various media reports about Qatar’s mediation role. These remarks, if validated, are irresponsible and destructive to the efforts to save innocent lives, but are not surprising,” Al Ansari, said on X.
Al Ansari underscored Qatar’s successful mediation last year alongside Egypt, which resulted in a temporary truce that lasted between November 24 and December 1.
The pause saw the release of at least 110 Israeli and foreign captives from Gaza as well as 240 Palestinian women and children from Israeli prisons.
While the talks have since appeared to stall under the non-stop Israeli attacks and ground invasion of Gaza, where Israel has killed more than 25,000 Palestinians, Al Ansari noted that “Qatar has been engaged in regular dialogue with the negotiating parties including Israeli institutions.”
“If the reported remarks are found to be true, the Israeli PM would only be obstructing and undermining the mediation process, for reasons that appear to serve his political career instead of prioritising saving innocent lives, including Israeli hostages,” Al Ansari added.
Hamas opened its political office in Qatar in 2012 following the United States’ request to establish a channel of communication, a move that has since allowed Doha to successfully mediate between the conflicting parties on several occasions to achieve crucially needed ceasefires.
Qatar — a major non-NATO U.S. ally — and France also managed to broker a deal on January 12 to allow the delivery of aid and medicines to the remaining captives and civilians in Gaza.
“Instead of concerning himself with Qatar’s strategic relations with the United States, we hope Netanyahu decides to operate in good faith and concentrate on the release of the hostages,” Al Ansari said.
The Gulf state’s mediation is ongoing in hopes of reaching a comprehensive ceasefire in Gaza. Hamas has repeatedly placed a ceasefire as its condition to return the captives whereas Israel demanded temporary pauses.
Netanyahu has been under immense domestic pressure, especially by the captives’ families who have been demanding a pause to get their relatives out of Gaza. Almost daily protests have been taking place in Tel Aviv, many of which have called on Netanyahu to resign.
Meanwhile, Axios reported on Thursday that Qatar, the CIA’s director Bill Burns, Egyptian intelligence chief, and the head of Israel’s Mossad are meeting “in the coming days” in Europe to discuss another possible deal.
Qatar has not publicly commented on the reported meeting.