Qatar says Netanyahu’s reported criticism undermines Gaza mediation

JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Qatar on Wednesday said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was obstructing mediation efforts in the Gaza war after a leaked recording allegedly captured him calling the Gulf state “problematic”.

“We are appalled by the alleged remarks attributed to the Israeli Prime Minister in various media reports about Qatar’s mediation role,” Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Majed Al Ansari, said on social media platform X.

“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 prioritizing saving innocent lives, including Israeli hostages,” he wrote.

In a leaked recording from a meeting with hostage families that aired on Israel’s Channel 12 news on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Qatar “problematic.”

“You haven’t seen me thank Qatar, have you noticed? I haven’t thanked Qatar. Why? Because Qatar, to me, is no different in essence from the U.N., from the Red Cross and in a way it’s even more problematic. However, I’m willing to use any mediator now who can help me bring them (the hostages) home.”

Asked to comment on Qatar’s statement and whether the leaked recording was authentic, an Israeli government spokesperson said Israel “cannot go into details regarding the efforts and steps taken to release the hostages.”

In response Al Ansari’s statement, Israel’s far-right finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, accused Doha of “supporting and funding terrorism.”

Smotrich said on X that Qatar was “largely responsible” for the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on southern Israeli communities and called on Western countries to apply more pressure on it to bring an immediate release of the hostages.

“One thing is clear: Qatar will not be involved in what happens in Gaza the day after the war,” Smotrich wrote.

Qatar, where several Hamas political leaders are based, has served as the main mediator between the movement that governs Gaza and Israeli officials in the conflict.

In November, Qatar helped secure a seven-day pause in fighting, during which 110 Israeli and foreign hostages were released from Gaza in return for 240 Palestinians released from Israeli captivity.

In the recording, Netanyahu went on to say that Qatar has leverage over Hamas because it funds the movement. He told the hostage families that he recently “got very angry with the Americans” for renewing a deal to extend U.S. military presence at a base in Qatar.

The Qatari spokesman said in his statement: “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.”

(Reporting by Enas Alashray and Henriette Chacar; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)