Qatar ruled out normalizing ties with Israel as the country's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said Wednesday that Doha had "lost hope" of rekindling ties with Tel Aviv following the Gaza war in the early 2000s.
Gaza has been a hotbed of tension between Israel and Palestine for decades. More than two-thirds of the population are families who fled or were forced to leave their homes during the war over the creation of Israel in 1948.
According to the Axios news site, Al Thani claimed that bettering relations with Israel was on the agenda "when there were prospects for peace" with the Palestinians, but after the 2008-2009 Gaza war, all hopes were dashed.
He argued that Qatar is keen to continue its "working relationship" in order to help Palestinians, however, joining the Abraham Accords "in the absence of a real commitment to a two-state solution" is something Doha is not prepared to do.
Qatar has become a pivot of United States policy in the region as Washington's ties with other Gulf partners such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been disrupted due to disagreements over the war in Yemen, ties with China and Riyadh's 2018 assassination of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Doha assisted in mass evacuations of American citizens and Afghan nationals from Afghanistan following the chaotic U.S. withdrawal and the Taliban's seizure of control. Qatar's popularity in the U.S. has also increased. On Monday, the country signed a $30 billion deal to buy an aircraft from the U.S. company Boeing, while its wealth fund intends to invest $10 billion in American infrastructure.
On the same day, U.S. President Joe Biden announced his decision to name Qatar a major non-NATO ally after his first meeting with the country’s leader Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani at the White House.
Despite a major improvement in relations between the two countries, Doha refuses to establish formal ties with Israel. By doing this, Qatar indicates its intention to be a reliable U.S. ally with its image as a gas-rich Gulf state that has at times pursued an individualistic foreign policy, which at times has made some in Washington uncomfortable.
Meanwhile, the tensions between Qatar and other Gulf states have simmered recently. A number of Middle East countries have lifted their embargoes on Doha and signaled readiness for new chapter in the region. Since 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt blockaded Qatar and unveiled a series of demands, including forcing Doha to shut down the state-backed Al-Jazeera media outlet and break ties with the Muslim Brotherhood. When Qatar refused, a yearslong crisis in the Gulf unfolded.
While this stance may be on par with that of the White House, Doha's resistance to mending ties with Israel runs counter to the broad bipartisan support in Washington for the 2020 Abraham Accords.