Israel-Hamas War Negotiations Expand in Doha

Multiparty talks, including Hamas, Israel, the United States, and Egypt, now include cease-fire negotiations as well as hostage release issues.

The presence of both sides for so-called proximity talks – meeting mediators separately while in the same city – suggested negotiations were further along than at any time since a big push at the start of February when Israel rejected a Hamas counter-offer for a four-and-a-half-month truce.

In public, both sides continued to take positions far apart on the ultimate aim of a truce while blaming each other for holding up the talks. Israel says it will agree only to a temporary pause in fighting to secure the release of hostages. Hamas says it will not free them without an agreement that leads to a permanent end to the war.

The office of Qatar’s emir said Al Thani and the Hamas chief had discussed Qatar’s efforts to broker an “immediate and permanent ceasefire agreement in the Gaza Strip.”

Earlier, a source reported that an Israeli working delegation, made up of staff from the military and the Mossad spy agency, had flown to Qatar, tasked with creating an operational center to support negotiations there. Its mission would include vetting proposed Palestinian militants that Hamas wants freed as part of a hostage release deal, the source said.

Israel is under pressure from its main ally, the United States, to agree to a truce soon to head off a threatened Israeli assault on Rafah, the last city at the Gaza Strip’s southern edge where over half the enclave’s 2.3 million people are sheltering, which Washington fears could become a bloodbath.

Qatar and Negotiations

Almost 90% of the people in this Gulf Coast emirate are foreign expatriates. As a result, although the country is very traditional in many ways, Qatar has an openness not shared in other parts of the Arab world.

Its government is a good example. Mohammed bin Thani was the country’s first Emir in 1868. For many years thereafter, his family ruled with absolute authority. The Emir’s power, while still supreme, has been tempered in recent years. The people elect about half the members of the  Consultative Assembly, a body that can block legislation and has a limited ability to dismiss ministers. That’s not much democracy, but it’s better than nothing.

The same multilateral approach applies to foreign affairs. Qatar is one of the closest non-NATO American allies in the world. The Al Udeid Air Base, which is located in the desert southwest of Doha, is the biggest U.S. military installation in the Middle East. Qatar foots the bill for many of the base’s operating expenses, allowing it to be a pivotal hub for the U.S. Central Command’s air operations in or around Afghanistan, Iran, and across the Middle East. The Qatari and British Air Forces also operate from the base.

At the same time, Qatar has very close ties with China. The two countries established formal diplomatic relations in 1988. Economic ties have strengthened over the years. The most recent example may be a November 2022 agreement between QatarEnergy and Chinese Sinopec. Under this agreement, which is the longest contract in the history of the industry, Qatar will ship 4 million tons of LNG to China every year for twenty-seven years.

Militarily, China and Qatar formally agreed to cooperate in counter-terrorism measures in September 2017. A few months later, during Qatar National Day celebrations in December 2017, Qatar visibly paraded its Chinese-made ballistic missile system.

The fence-straddling nature of Qatari politics might not be sustainable over the long term. But in the short term, it gives Qatar the ability to play both sides in many international disputes.

Qatar and Contractors

The unique Arab world environment in Qatar creates lots of opportunities for construction and security contractors.

Every year, the U.S. military deploys more advanced weapons. The physical facilities at installations like Al Udeid must be modified to accommodate faster attack aircraft, larger cargo aircraft, more sophisticated missiles, and so forth.

Construction contractors are very well-suited for such duties. The DoD does not want to commit combat engineers to such work. Furthermore, when the construction project ends, the government’s financial obligation ends as well. Even if the contractor sustains a serious injury, an insurance company, not the government, bears the financial responsibility for that injury. More on that below.

As for security contractors, sensitive negotiations require specialized security details. The guards must not be bulldog-types who intimidate people. But they must be tough enough to deter evildoers and well-trained enough to counter threats and react properly to them.

Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, the guards must have good attitudes. To many regular servicemembers, guard duty is a form of punishment. But private military contractors signed on for guard duty and other similar assignments, like escort duty.

Sometimes, these two areas overlap. Qatar is a pretty safe place to work, and terrorist threats are minimal. Security contractors at construction sites help ensure that the threat level remains very low.

Injury Compensation Available

If contractors sustain deployment-related injuries, the Defense Base Act replaces the lost wages as follows:

  • Temporary Total Disability: Most falls and other trauma injuries cause temporary disabilities. If the injury is totally disabling (the victim cannot work while they recover). The DBA usually pays two-thirds of the victim’s average weekly wage for the duration of that temporary disability.
  • Temporary Partial Disability: As they recover, especially in the late stages, many victims can work part-time. This arrangement is good for employers who need employees to work, victims who need to feel productive, and caregivers who need victims out of the house. The wage replacement benefit usually covers the gap between full-time and part-time income.
  • Permanent Total Disability: Many occupational diseases, such as toxic exposure illnesses, are permanently disabling. A physical or other disability precludes future employment. Usually, to determine a proper amount of compensation, a DBA lawyer partners with accountants and other outside professionals.
  • Permanent Partial Disability: Sometimes, a permanent disability restricts, but does not eliminate, the victim’s ability to work. Once again, DBA benefits usually cover the gap between pre-injury and post-injury earning capacities.

Once again, there may be some overlap between these two categories. Temporary disabilities often become permanent disabilities. Frequently, physical therapists cannot completely restore lost functions.

For more information about DBA medical bill payment benefits, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.