Israel’s Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz expressed his concern in front of the Ynet website on Sunday that Qatar will eventually purchase state-of-the-art Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter aircraft from the United States despite Jerusalem’s objections. The minister’s words reflect Israel’s determination to maintain its qualitative military advantage over all other Middle Eastern states.
The Israeli desire to prevent any regional state from approaching military equivalence with it militarily applies to both friends and enemies. A heated discussion is currently underway regarding the acquisition of the F-35 stealth aircraft by the United Arab Emirates as part of its normalization agreement with Israel. Egypt’s efforts to modernize its submarine fleet are still the subject of discussion and concern in Israel. Cairo and Jerusalem have been at peace for 40 years.
This concern stems from Israel’s awareness of the volatile and dysfunctional nature of Middle East policy. Israeli defense representatives refer to Egypt’s experience under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood in the years 2012-2013, when the 1979 Israeli peace treaty with Egypt – a cornerstone of Israel’s subsequent economic development, social blossoming and partial integration into the region – came into visible distance. This regional volatility makes the military capabilities of each nation, including those of current friends, a cause for concern.
With regard to Qatar, which is pursuing a regional strategy hostile to the Jewish state, this caution is multiplied many times over.
Qatar, which hosts the largest U.S. military facility in the Middle East at the Al Udeid air base, nevertheless consistently allies and supports anti-Israeli and anti-American forces throughout the region.
Doha seeks to use its connections to both pro-western and anti-western camps to its diplomatic advantage. The financing of the Hamas enclave in the Gaza Strip is an example of this. Another example is the apparent payment of ransoms for the release of Western hostages to Syrian Islamist rebel groups, which Qatar itself supports.
Sometimes Qatar openly sides with the anti-Western forces of Iran and its allies as well as Turkey and the Sunni Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood. Doha continues to firmly reject the normalization agreements recently reached between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and, more recently, Sudan. Its influential satellite news channel Al Jazeera offers an uninterrupted diet of incitement against Israel and the United States. Qatar strongly supported and encouraged the short-lived government of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo. It maintains close relations with Iran, with whom it is jointly developing the Gulf’s North Dome/South Pars gas condensate field, the largest natural gas field in the world.
Qatar also maintains a growing strategic partnership with the Turkish government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This alliance between Turkey and Qatar is perhaps the central pillar of Qatar’s foreign policy. The two countries share a central sympathy for Sunni political Islam, especially in its form of the Muslim Brotherhood. They signed a strategic security agreement in 2014, following which a Turkish military base was established in Qatar.
Qatar has also helped Turkey to mitigate the effects of U.S. sanctions. In 2018, Doha pledged $15 billion for investments in Turkish banks and financial markets. This was in return for Turkey’s efforts to help the Qatari monarchy break the blockade imposed in 2017 by neighboring Saudi Arabia and the UAE because of Qatar’s support for terrorist groups and its overly close ties with Iran. As Turkish journalist Burak Bekdil pointed out in a recent article, an important part of the growing friendship between Qatar and Turkey, both of which are supposed allies of the U.S., is the support Qatar is giving Turkey to escape U.S. sanctions.
Qatar’s ruling Al-Thani family has contributed to the decline of stability in the Middle East over the past decade. In 2014, the German Development Minister said that Qatar was financing the Islamic state’s terrorist movement in Syria and Iraq.
In response to a growing list of accusations, the regime of the 40-year-old ruler of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who was appointed emir by his father in 2013, often uttered platitudes in which it said that the country was a terrorist organization.