Qatar's ATM for the Palestinians is fed by the war in Ukraine – Haaretz

Qatar provides financial aid to Gaza and West Bank, whilst deepening ties with Israel. And as host of this year's World Cup, it is also leveraging its international standing and expects an increase in foreign investment and spending
Israel’s recent request to Qatar for assistance in preventing an escalation in the West Bank may have raised some eyebrows locally, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise. In recent years, Qatar has earned its reputation as an ATM for the Gaza Strip, sending suitcases brimming with dollars for needy families in the enclave. Qatar has also been funding reconstruction projects in Gaza and contributing to education and medical institutions there.
Qatar hasn’t washed its hands of the Palestinian Authority and the West Bank either. In 2019, it committed to send about $300 million to the Palestinian Authority – of the $480 million in assistance that was budgeted for the Palestinians. Over the past decade, it has provided roughly $1.5 billion in assistance to the PA, and it continues to fund specific projects in the West Bank.
Up to now, Qatari assistance has been framed in the context of the understandings reached between Israel and Hamas (which controls the Strip), with the help of Egyptian mediation. The relationship began following the war that Israel fought with Hamas in 2014, and developed further with each new round of fighting. But now it appears that the Israeli-Qatari connection runs deeper, extending beyond the Israeli-Palestinian context.
Later this year has opened up another channel of public communications between the two countries. Current discussions are aimed at arranging the arrival of more than 10,000 Israeli soccer fans to Qatar – and perhaps even the opening of a temporary Israeli consular office in the Persian Gulf country to deal with the visiting Israelis’ needs.
As part of Qatar’s agreement with FIFA, it is committed to allow Israelis to travel to the stadiums where the matches are being played, but it has been leveraging this situation to demand that Israel extend this privilege to Palestinian fans who wish to attend the games.
Ultimately, the sporting ties rest on stronger foundations. At the end of President Donald Trump’s term as president, the U.S. administration transferred Israel from its unified European combat command to CENTCOM, the U.S. Defense Department’s Central Command, which includes the Middle East. According to the Middle East Eye website, senior Israeli military officers visited Qatar in July as part of joint military consultations involving Israel, the Gulf countries and CENTCOM.
Qatar, which has been accorded the status of a non-NATO senior American ally, does not disclose details regarding its military cooperation, which now also includes Israel, but the ties between the countries are growing closer under the auspices of the United States.
Continued growth
Qatar is a country of contradictions. It’s Iran’s partner in the largest natural gas field in the world, South Pars in the Persian Gulf. At the same time, it hosts the major American Al-Udeid airbase on its territory. Since 2003, it has invested more than $8 billion in the base and recently added another $1.8 billion towards infrastructure upgrades.
According to a U.S. State Department report, the two countries have been managing joint military projects worth about $26 billion. Qatar also ranks No. 2 in the world in the size of its military procurement from the United States, which include sophisticated missile systems, F-15 warplanes and advanced Patriot missiles and Apache attack helicopters.
Qatar is also one of the countries mediating between Iran and the United States in the negotiations on the international nuclear agreement with Tehran. Last year it also mediated between the Americans and the Taliban prior to the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan. But it did not join the sanctions regime that the West has imposed on Russia.
Like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, Qatar has also been strengthening its international ties via its sovereign wealth fund, which has been investing hundreds of billions of dollars in projects around the world, including hotels, sports clubs, and the purchase of rare art.
Qatar expects that the revenues from the World Cup will add about one and half percent to its GDP
Qatar successfully survived the boycott imposed on it in 2017 by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Egypt – which lasted three and a half years, and leveraged the boycott to increase local production with the help of Turkey, Iran and the United States. The boycott was lifted last year, and in spite of the coronavirus pandemic, the Qatari economy has continued to grow. The International Monetary Fund estimates that the economy will grow by 4.4 percent this year with foreign currency reserves of about $58 billion.
Qatar forecasts around $7 billion in revenue from hosting the World Cup. Between 1.2 million to 1.7 million people are expected to attend the events, who will enjoy the sophisticated infrastructure built for the games, from air-conditioned stadiums and hotels, in which the country has invested over $200 billion since its successful bid to host the tournament over a decade ago.

Revenues from the World Cup are predicted to add about one and a half percent to Qatar’s GDP, and the event will also attract new foreign businesses and investments, such as those announced by Microsoft. The computer giant plans on building its global cloud computing center there, with an investment of some $18 billion, creating about 36,000 new jobs.
To handle the harsh criticism of its shameful exploitation of foreign workers, who make up some 88 percent of all Qatari residents and the complaints about the high number of foreign workers who died in work accidents, Qatar legislated innovative new labor laws and invested in impressive wage increases and compensation for the families of those killed.
The housing supply is running out
Until these investments appear and the rials pile up in stadium box offices, the World Cup has created a painful real estate reality for millions of residents – who have found themselves facing landlords trying to make windfall profits from the expected visitors and tourists.
Reports in the Qatari media tell of a jump of tens – and even hundreds – of percent in rents and housing prices. For example, landlords are asking tenants to pay 40 percent more in rent and to sign two-year contracts, even though prices are expected to plummet to their normal levels after the games. Renting a room during the World Cup period can cost over $1,000 a night, while in normal times the same room would cost about $2,000 a month.
Real estate brokers and businessmen have already signed agreements with some 60,000 homeowners – and the housing supply is expected to run out before the games start. The Qatari government may have to cap hotel room prices, according to which a night at a four star or less hotel will cost only $130, and the cost of luxurious room in a five-star hotel can cost no more than $770 a night – but it is hard to find a hotel that complies with these rules. Fans may be able to find cheaper accommodations outside of the capital of Doha, or in neighboring Gulf states – and many fans have rented such rooms or houses in these countries well in advance of the World Cup.
Not shedding a single tear
This has been a very good year for Qatar, and not just because of the World Cup. The war in Ukraine has made Qatar into a very sought-after country, which has been conducting negotiations for weeks with European countries about supplying natural gas to replace Russian gas. In June, Qatar signed an agreement with Italian energy firm ENI to expand its natural gas liquification project, which construction began on in 2019 – at a cost of over $28 billion.
Qatar has increased the gas quotas it supplies to some European countries and Britain, but in the near future it is unable to replace Russian supply. To achieve this, Qatar must build a direct gas pipeline to Europe, and transfer part of the gas it is obligated to sell to countries in Asia in the opposite direction to the West. Qatar and the European Union are also in dispute over the price of the gas and the length of future contracts. But assuming Europe is looking to end its dependence on Russian energy sources, it seems that Qatar is not shedding any tears over every additional day the war in Ukraine continues.
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