After years of an official boycott on his part and strong opposition to the Abrahamic accords, Qatar has struck a trade deal with Israel on diamonds. Although the deal is about a seemingly technical arrangement in an important trade sector, it indicates direct links between the two countries and contacts on issues on their agendas. According to a source close to these contacts, Qatar will have no problem concluding other economic and trade agreements with Israel, as long as it suits its interests, as happened in the case of the agreement on diamonds. Qatar, he recalls, will host the FIFA World Cup next year, having pledged to bring any tourist who wishes. He must prove to the world that he will fulfill his commitment, and the diamond deal with Israel indicates a desire to appear open to the world.

“Globes” learned that the governments of Israel and Qatar have reached a diamond trade deal that will allow Qatar to join the list of countries allowed to trade in diamonds. Qatar has pledged to allow Israeli diamond dealers to enter the country without difficulty, and even to set up representative offices there if they wish, even though there is no diplomatic relationship between the two countries. , and Qatar, the “bad girl” of the Gulf. , opposed Abraham’s agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. The agreement was signed by senior foreign ministry officials from both countries.

Qatar intends to set up a free trade zone that will specialize in precious stones and gold, and later form a diamond exchange, modeled on Dubai. The decision still requires final approval from the plenum of the Kimberley Process certification system member countries, and setting up an exchange will require the approval of the Diamond Exchange Federation, but after the withdrawal of Israeli opposition. , the way is open for Qatar. .

Dr Ron Malak, director general of the Ministry of Economy and Industry, confirmed details of the story to “Globes”. He said that as a result of a close and continuous dialogue between the ministry and Israeli diamond dealers and with the Foreign Ministry, Israel has received a commitment that the interests of Israeli diamonds will not be harmed and that they will not be harmed. would not be discriminated against compared to other diamond merchants in accessing the shopping center that Qatar intends to set up. Following this commitment, Israel did not oppose Qatar’s membership in the organization. According to Malka, the development is indicative of the strengthening of Israel’s economic and trade position. When asked if the deal with Qatar provided for other agreements, he replied that Israel was ready and open to any initiative and approach from any country in the region, including Qatar.

At the Israeli Diamond Exchange, in response to inquiries from “Globes”, sources said they welcome this achievement and that it is a very important initiative that has opened up new markets for Israeli diamond dealers and for the Israeli diamond industry, which continues to help advance the economy and represent the country around the world.

The direct economic importance of the agreement is not high, at least not for the next few years. According to industry officials in Israel and the Dubai Diamond Exchange, it will take time for the Qataris to establish significant trade and gain a foothold in an area dominated by two solid veteran players. Israel’s close and direct ties to the Dubai Diamond Exchange allow traders from countries without diplomatic ties with Israel to connect. All the same, the importance of the agreement lies in the fact that it is the first trade agreement after the severance of ties between the two countries following Operation Cast Lead and the signing of the agreements of Abraham, and in the fact that it constitutes an opening towards future economic and commercial perspectives. The agreements.

Not to be outdone

From conversations with diplomatic and business sources that deal with trade with the Gulf states, it appears that this move represents a combination of needs, interests and desire on Qatar’s part not to be left behind. in the new diplomatic balance in the Middle East after the Abrahamic crisis. Agreements. In the past, Qatar was a pioneer in opening up to the West. It was the first Gulf state to have US forces on its soil, and it opened the international English and Arabic information network Al Jazeera. He was also a pioneer in relations with Israel. During the period of the Oslo accords, the late Shimon Peres, then Israel’s foreign minister, met on several occasions with the Qatari leadership, and in 1996 representative offices were opened in Tel Aviv and Doha.

Official ties were severed in 2009 with Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. In recent years, in its attempts to regain a position of influence, Qatar has funded various projects in the Gaza Strip, and in 2017, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, even said that relations between Qatar and Israel were good. . For the past two years, Qatar has funded fuel for the Gaza Strip power plant and provided cash to 10,000 needy families each month. During contacts on these issues, former Mossad leader Yossi Cohen visited Doha. But after Abraham’s agreements with the UAE and Bahrain were signed, Qatar announced that it would not join them until there was a solution to the dispute with the Palestinians.

The now-reported deal could signal a certain thaw on the part of Doha, and the possibility of economic and other agreements, even if it is not a complete normalization of relations. Knowledgeable sources say Qatar has seen the economic and trade success of the Abrahamic Agreements and their great potential, and is seeking an elegant way to join the process, if only partially. Another point to consider is that one of the Hamas leadership command posts is in Qatar, generously hosted by the government.

For Israel, such a thaw in relations could bear many fruits, certainly economically and commercially, but perhaps also diplomatically, by drawing Qatar away from countries and organizations hostile to Israel and by bringing it closer to the moderate Sunni alliance. of the Gulf.

Posted by Globes, Israel business news – en.globes.co.il – November 25, 2021.

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