Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent high-level security officials to Qatar on a secret mission this month to ask the Gulf Arab state to continue injecting money into the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, political adversary Avigdor Liberman said.
Public disclosure of a visit to an Arab country with which Israel has no diplomatic ties is itself unusual. The Qatari payments to Gaza are politically controversial in Israel -- especially ahead of March 2 elections -- with opponents like Liberman calling them a capitulation to terrorism because they help to keep the militant Hamas in control of the border enclave.
Netanyahu accused Liberman of leaking the information, which had been under military censorship, for political gain ahead of the vote.
Yossi Cohen, head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, and Herzl Halevi, head of the army’s southern command, asked the Qataris two weeks ago to extend their aid past the March deadline they’ve set, Liberman said in an interview aired on Israel’s Channel 12 late Saturday.
Israel has allowed Qatar to funnel fuel subsidies and payments to thousands of families and civil servants, helping to avert Gaza’s economic collapse. Gaza’s economy is in a shambles in the aftermath of the 2014 war with Israel, a longstanding blockade by Israel and Egypt, and sanctions imposed by the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, which seeks to crush Hamas.
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