“Hostage Talks Re-Started: Israel Blocks Mossad Chief’s Trip to Qatar
It appears the diplomatic efforts for the return of Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza have hit another snag. The Israeli government has reportedly cancelled a planned visit by Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen to Qatar after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to give his approval. The Mossad chief had been granted permission to travel to Doha by Qatar’s foreign minister, after months of secret negotiations between Qatar and Israeli officials. According to reports, the trip was intended to restart negotiations over the release of two Israeli citizens and the remains of two Israeli soldiers held by Hamas. The Israeli government reportedly feared that Qatar would use the trip as an opportunity to strengthen ties with Hamas and promote its own foreign policy interests. According to one official, Qatar has signaled its eagerness to engage in the talks, but Prime Minister Netanyahu has yet to sign off on the visit due to concerns over Qatar’s relationship with Hamas. This unilateral decision by Israel has cast further doubt on the prospects for a successful outcome to the talks. Qatar’s role as an intermediary in the talks has become increasingly important since the United States withdrew its involvement in 2018. It is unclear what will happen next, or if Qatar will be able to help facilitate an agreement. For now, it appears the Israeli government’s decision to cancel Mossad Chief Cohen’s visit to Qatar has hampered negotiations over the hostages’ release. It remains to be seen if the terrorists holding the hostages will be willing to compromise with Israel, or if more obstacles will be put up by the Israeli government.