WASHINGTON– With Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the UAE cutting diplomatic relations with Qatar earlier this week, Members of Congress highlighted the problematic nature of Doha’s longstanding backing of Hamas. In a remarkable statement, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir confirmed that Doha must cease its backing of Hamas before the Arab Gulf state could restore ties with Riyadh. For years, Qatar has housed Hamas leader Khaled Meshal while also funneling hundreds of millions of dollars into the Gaza Strip.
Representative Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) told Jewish Insider, “Anybody that supports Hamas is supporting a terrorist organization and we need to take decisive steps to address that. It’s part of the discussion to let them know that this is unacceptable and that we want them to be a peaceful ally in the region and work with their neighbors and us.”
Striking a similar tone, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN) called Qatar’s backing of the Palestinian terror group “outrageous.” The Tennessee lawmaker added, “We need to reevaluate our relationship with any nation that is engaging in state sponsoring of terrorism.”
A bipartisan bill was introduced in the House at the end of May to increase sanctions against any government funding Hamas. The legislation has received backing of influential lawmakers including Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ed Royce (R-CA), Ranking Democratic Member Eliot Engel (D-NY) and chairperson of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) all support the legislation. Possibly due to increased pressure, this week Ha’aretz reported that Hamas officials have left Qatar while AP noted that the Palestinian terror group denied being expelled from Doha.
At the same time, some Democratic Members of Congress urged caution. “Qatar is trying to play all sides of the game here and they may have been caught finally. But, we got to be careful because the US has some important assets there that assist us in the fight against terror,” explained Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD).
President Donald Trump issued harsh criticism of Qatar via Twitter on Tuesday, “So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism,” Trump charged.
Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) contended that the President’s public attack of Doha was unhelpful to America’s national interests. “To not recognize the fact that we have 10,000 American troops based in Doha and he didn’t actually factor that before he shuoted out his opinion from his Twitter account is fairly disturbing. We should do it through diplomatic channels and official channels instead of using Twitter.”
In contrast, Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX) emphasized that President Trump, like all US citizens has a right to his opinion and found no problem with his Twitter criticism. Calling Qatar’s support of Hamas “super problematic,” the Texas lawmaker noted, “George Bush said it after 9/11: no matter whether you house terrorists or a hotbed for terrorists, we are coming after you.”