Qatar's Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani became Tuesday the first Arab ruler to visit Gaza Strip since Hamas came into power in 2007. The visit is considered another step in his efforts to cement his policy of encouraging Islamists in order to confirm his country's position as a regional power.
Doha has never made any secret of its preference for Hamas at the expense of rival nationalist Fatah movement of Mahmoud Abbas. Earlier this year, Doha has tried - unsuccessfully - to reconcile the two camps.
On Sunday, the Qatari ruler called the president of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas, in order to "reassure" Ramallah about his efforts to promote reconciliation. According to analysts, this highly symbolic visit will further widen the distrust of the West Bank officials to Qatar. "In fact, behind positive public statements, Mahmoud Abbas and his associates are angry," said a diplomat in Jerusalem. In their eyes, the objectives of this visit are not clear at all. Qatar speaks of reconciliation, and at the same time, the Emir and Sheikha Moza conduct an official visit to Gaza, the first of an Arab head of state, "said the diplomat.
For the past several years, Doha has no longer supported the Palestinian Authority, despite it is being on the verge of bankruptcy.
The visit is not, however, a real surprise. The Emir of Qatar is in fact a personal friend of Khaled Mashaal, head of Hamas' political bureau. After the outbreak of the Syrian revolt, Mashaal moved from Damascus to the Four Seasons Hotel Doha in Qatar.
During his visit, Sheikh Hamad is expected to inaugurate reconstruction projects worth $ 254 million. This sum will be directed to road projects and agricultural development in the Gaza Strip. Since June, the Gulf emirate has donated 30 million liters of fuel for the only power plant in the Gaza Strip.