Qatar has accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of hurting efforts to secure the release of hostages after a leaked recording appeared to catch the Israeli leader criticizing the country, which has been a key mediator in talks.
Qatar, which allows Hamas’s military wing to maintain a presence in Doha, has been deeply involved in negotiations between Israel and the militant group on a cease-fire and the release of about 100 hostages still being held in Gaza, though the two sides appear to remain far apart on an agreement.
In a recording that aired on Israeli television on Tuesday, a voice that appears to be Mr. Netanyahu’s calls Qatar’s role as a mediator “problematic” because of its relationship to Hamas and criticizes the United States for extending its military presence in Qatar.
“These remarks if validated, are irresponsible and destructive to the efforts to save innocent lives, but are not surprising,” the Qatari foreign ministry spokesman, Majed Al Ansari, said in a statement on social media on Wednesday.
He said that if the remarks were confirmed, Mr. Netanyahu would be “obstructing and undermining the mediation process, for reasons that appear to serve his political career instead of prioritizing saving innocent lives, including Israeli hostages.”
Mr. Netanyahu did not publicly respond to the Qatari comments.
The Israeli prime minister said on Sunday that he would not accept a deal for a permanent cease-fire that left Hamas in control of Gaza. He has been under pressure from the right-wing of his government to take more aggressive military actions in Gaza, even as a debate rises about the feasibility of both eradicating Hamas and negotiating the release of the hostages.
A weeklong truce in November was part of a deal that secured the release of more than 100 of the hostages abducted on Oct. 7, when Hamas-led fighters raided Israeli towns and killed about 1,200 people, many of them civilians. Almost immediately after the Oct. 7 attack, Qatar joined the hostage negotiations, leveraging its friendly relationship with Hamas.