Qatari envoy Mohammed Al-Emadi with Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza
Few Israelis, including the people who wake up at night to the clatter of Palestinians in Gaza digging tunnels under their floors, have never heard of Mohammed Al-Emadi. But his importance to their lives cannot be overestimated, because, as debkafile reveals here, he is the Persian Gulf Emirate of Qatar’s de facto ambassador to the Gaza Strip and to Israel.
He is moreover Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s secret weapon against Hamas’s terror tunnels.
On Monday, Feb.8, Education Minister Naftali Bennett was reported as urging an immediate attack on the Hamas tunnels during a recent security cabinet meeting, of which he is a member.
The next morning, the defense minister furiously dismissed his colleague’s demands as “reckless, childish and irresponsible” and accused him of potentially dragging the country into war from cynical motives. “War isn’t child’s play and it costs human lives,” Ya’alon said.
It is not debkafile’s business to defend Minister Bennett. He manages this very well by himself. Our concern is to explain that Ya’alon’s unwillingness to go into action against the Hamas tunnels is not down to the IDF’s inability to handle the mission, but to the new element in the Israel-Hamas equation: His cooperation with the Qatari ambassador, who has set up an office in Gaza City. This office has become the nerve center between two Palestinian organizations, Hamas and Jihad Islami, and Israel’s defense authorities.
The Qatari envoy’s office processes every message passing between Gaza and Tel Aviv.
For example, after the popular uproar in Israel over the terror tunnels, Israeli media carried reports that Hamas and Islamic Jihad had sent messages to assure Israel that they had no intention of launching a fresh round of warfare.
That message, carried secretly by the Qatari envoy, had two sections that were not published:
The two Palestinian groups asked Israel not to misunderstand their military actions in Gaza because, it was claimed, they were defensive not offensive.
Hamas and the Islamic Jihad also asked Israel to intercede on their behalf with Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi to ease his closure on the Rafah border town, part of Cairo’s tough crackdown on the two terrorist groups.
Israel did not respond directly. But on, Monday, Feb. 8, in an interview to the Saudi website “Elaf”, IDF Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordecai accused Hamas of treating in Gaza hospitals ISIS-affiliated terrorists who had been injured in Sinai attacks on Egyptian troops and police officers.
He revealed that, on the orders of the Hamas military wing, Ezzadin al-Qassem Brigades, those ISIS casualties were transferred to the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younes through secret tunnels.
Gen. Mordecai’s implied message was this: First stop giving ISIS terrorists medical care, then we may consider putting in a word for you in Cairo.
But according, to debkafile counterterrorism sources, the general held back on two even more serious aspects of Hamas’s secret collusion with Egypt’s archenemy in Sinai.
First, he omitted mention of the flow of Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters to Sinai, where they were reinforcing the ISIS affiliate against Egypt.
Second, he said nothing about the Hamas-Islamic Jihad’s clandestine deals for the smuggling of weapons through Sinai into the Gaza Strip, often from Libya.
The Qatari envoy is not just brokering messages between Israel and Gaza. Essential goods in large quantities, including fuel and building materials, are being regularly trucked into the Gaza Strip from Israel. Each consignment must first obtain a stamp of approval from Al-Emadi’s office.
Israel accepted this procedure for three reasons:
1. Its defense authorities and the IDF trust the Qatari envoy’s good judgment on the choice of items for delivery.
2. His office, as designated representative of the Emirate of Qatar, is responsible for payment for the goods ordered on the shopping lists its office relays to Tel Aviv. Some Israeli factories are now exclusively producing goods on those lists, confident that payment by the emirate is guaranteed.
3. A copy of those shopping lists is also sent to Cairo. This enables Qatar to keep the Israeli and Egyptian military authorities in full coordination and abreast of events in Gaza.
At the same time, Al-Emadi stays clear of the two Palestinian groups’ military affairs, such as their infiltration tunnels and missiles. New pictures appearing on Gaza social media in the last few days show the Qatari ambassador visiting a tunnel, apparently to find out at first hand what the uproar in Israel was about.
Finally, the importance can’t be overstated of seriously debating the defense minister’s Gaza policy and the wisdom of reposing so much trust in the Gulf emirate, whose wider interests transcend the Israel-Palestinian sphere and include backing for Syrian rebel groups, some of them Islamic extremist terrorists.
Qatar’s interests also touch on additional fronts of Palestinian terror, as well as the Syrian conflict, Iran’s military intervention in Syria and Hizballah’s role.
The average Israel has begun gaining the impression that the defense minister has no answer for addressing the country’s multiple security threats, other than handing out economic incentives for inducing its many enemies to refrain from hostilities.
Moshe Ya’alon can only blame his own rhetoric for this image. A statement he made in October 2014 marked a turning-point in Israel’s military history. “Hizballah now has 100,000 missiles in Lebanon, and we are not taking action to destroy them. There are hundreds of missiles in Iran, and we are not making a decision to destroy them,” is what he said at the time. The minister has being making comments in the same vein every since. Dismissing as “reckless and childish” ideas that differ from his passive approach for dealing with the Hamas tunnels, the threats from Syria and the current wave of Palestinian terror, is no answer. Shutting down the debate on these vital issues is more dangerous than airing it.