Qatar's Foreign Policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: The Era of Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani 1995-2013
AuthorEddin, Lubna Naser
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The purpose of this research is to examine the objectives, tools, and features of Qatari foreign policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during the reign of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani (1995-2013). It also explores to what extent Qatar has overcome its constraints as a small state located between two regional rival powers (Saudi Arabia and Iran) and become an influential player in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ultimately, it analyzes Qatar's official position towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through utilizing the speeches of Sheikh Hamad and Qatar's soft power instruments. Since Qatar's involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was only through its soft power, the theoretical framework of the research is centered around the soft power theory. The research uses a qualitative methodology that employs the case study approach. In collecting the data, the research uses both primary and secondary resources, the former include the speeches of Sheikh Hamad, Qatari government documents, UN resolutions as well as interviews, whereas the latter include books, peer-reviewed journals, internet web sites, research centers reports and semi-official newspapers. The data analysis shows that Qatar's position as a small state located between two large powers prompted it to protect its security by following a hedging strategy. The analysis also demonstrates that Qatar's security dilemma became more pressing after the Gulf War of 1991, Al-Khafus border dispute in 1992, and the coup attempt on Qatar in 1996. Qatar's involvement in the conflict aims to support Palestinians, advance the peace process and to play a regional role. Qatar has been in support of the Palestinian rights, has demanded the Israeli withdrawal from the 1967 territories, and has promoted the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. Additionally, the research finds out that Qatar's involvement in the conflict is due to several reasons. The first one is protecting its national security and sovereignty. The second reason is Qatar's solidarity with Arab and Muslim causes. The third reason is playing a regional role through mediation. The research has also demonstrated that Qatar had a great influence on the conflict. This is evident by the role of Al Jazeera in raising awareness of the Israeli aggression against the Palestinians, the financial aid to Palestinians and mediation between Fatah and Hamas. Al Jazeera is Qatar's strongest soft power tool. It exposed the Israeli aggression, but at the same time gave a voice to the Israelis on its screen. Financial aid is another soft power tool aimed at elevating the Palestinian suffering, easing the tension between Hamas and Israel and promoting Qatar. However, this tool provides short term solutions. Mediation to wield influence is Qatar's third soft power tool; however, it didn't succeed to end the split between Fatah and Hamas. The research also finds out that Qatar's position towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not always in line with the GCC. Qatar's stance is also not in line with the small state traditional security strategies. Furthermore, the study finds out that in its involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is obvious that Qatar's foreign policy has certain features. These are mainly the support of Arabic and Islamic identity, the support of peaceful resolutions and international law, the support of political Islamic movements, visionary, determined and initiative leadership, divergence from the GCC, and Pragmatism. The potential contribution of this research is advancing the debate on the role of small states in regional and international politics and the opportunities and challenges that these states face in their foreign policy and the relationship between security and size. In addition, furthering the research on small wealthy states in the Gulf region and their foreign policy decisions. Moreover, exploring how a small state uses soft power to exert influence and filling a knowledge gap regarding Qatar's foreign policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the entirety of Sheikh Hamad's reign. The research is particularly useful for scholars and students of Middle Eastern studies, foreign policy analysis and international relations.
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